By Staff Reporter
The government of Zimbabwe is in the process of crafting a culture and arts policy that seeks to improve the country’s creative industries.
This came out at a two-day National Arts and Culture Strategy dialogue convened by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) in Bulawayo.
The indaba runs until Thursday, under the theme, “Towards the turnaround for a professional creative sector.”
Speaking at the conference, Principal Director in the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, Reverend Paul Damasane said that government is concerned about the welfare of artists.
Reverend Damasane said the policy will culminate in the decentralisation of services to district level.
“As we look forward we will bringeth down (sic) these to district level. That would make it easier to interface with government and make whole process not that tardy as it right now. We will get it right and hope that people’s concerns will certainly be addressed,” he said.
Speaking at the same conference, stakeholders in the arts sector lobbied government to relax its heavy tax regime which has resulted in some high profile shows being cancelled at the last minute, as promoters would have failed to submit the required documents.
To put up an arts event, a promoter has to have a licence and also pay tax to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.
If one is bringing in an international act, they have to be cleared by the censorship board, ZIMRA, Immigration department and also the arts mother body. After satisfying all these departments, the artist(s) is then issued with a Temporary Employment Permit (TEP).
However, this has proven to be a bane for local promoters as some of the shows have been cancelled after having failed to satisfy all the requirements.
In May this year, South African Afro-fusion band, Freshlyground were deported by the Immigration department and this was followed with the deportation in July of 44 members of the multi-national arts initiative, UMOJA, who were meant to perform in Harare, after immigration officials claimed they did not have police clearance from their countries of origin.
Josh Nyapimbi, the Director of Nhimbe Trust, told the gathering that such acts by government departments were working against the development of the arts sector.
“Zimbabwe is now unattractive as a destination and this is against cultural bilateral agreements the country signed with other nations such as the 2005 Convention,” Nyapimbi noted.
Nyapimbi also called for the decentralisation of services so that artists do not incur costs travelling to Harare to process their applications.
There are artists who live in Binga, Beitbridge and have to travel to Harare to organise several processes before receiving the nod to perform. Artists have to meet with the Censorship Board to be given approval certificates while visiting artists face challenges at Immigration and Customs offices. These are things which should be looked into and the government must decentralise some of these offices,” he said.
The National Arts and Culture Strategy Dialogue held annually to discuss, deliberate and recommend specific courses of action to meet and dialogue on issues affecting the development and future of the sector.