Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
ARTISTES and cultural gurus in Bulawayo have heaped praise on President Mugabe for handing the Arts and Culture portfolio to Sports Minister Makhosini Hlongwane in the latest Cabinet reshuffle.
Hlongwane, who was minister of Sport and Recreation, is now Minister of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture after the Cabinet reshuffle on Monday. He takes over the portfolio from Abednico Ncube who was Minister of Rural Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture and Heritage.
Artistes welcomed the move saying their sector would hopefully be a bit visible although ideally they wanted a stand-alone ministry. The last time Arts and Culture was a stand-alone ministry was during the Andrew Langa era who President Mugabe fired for ineptitude.
Renowned writer Raisedon Baya said they were relieved that the ministry was now in the hands of Hlongwane.
“We feel that we’re better off now than we were in the Rural Ministry. It was hard to engage the minister. We hope that the new minister will be accessible.
From what we’ve seen Hlongwane do with his sport ministry is that he likes to engage.
“What we’re not sure about is since elections are on next year, will he be able to do anything major in the next 10 months,” said Baya.
He said Hlongwane should start by completing the Cultural Policy, a document that is long overdue.
“The new minister should make the completion of the cultural document his first priority when he begins office. The cultural policy that we’ve been talking about for four or five years has been in the hands of Langa (former Arts and Culture minister) and until now, no headway has been made.
“We’re not going to do anything national without that cultural document.”
Veteran culturalist Cont Mhlanga though welcoming the development, seemed disgruntled as he said arts and culture were not being prioritised in the country.
“Those advising the President see our culture as something secondary to every other thing they were taught by white people. What should be done is to have a stand-alone Ministry of Arts and Culture, in fact Arts, Heritage and Culture.
“It should be straightforward not this appendage of Arts and Culture in ministries of sport or rural or education,” said Mhlanga.
“This shows that the people around the President don’t believe in promoting African culture and heritage. They see our ubuntu as an appendage of something else. We must learn as Africans that everything that we do must speak to who we are. This is because colonialists attacked our being as Africans when they settled on the continent, Zimbabwe specifically, something we should try and mend as a government.”
He said since he was now retired and not bogged down with Amakhosi Cultural Centre business, he was ready to help in any way in setting up the Arts, Culture and Heritage ministry.
“If they don’t know what to do, I’m offering to help them. I’m now retired and not bogged down with Amakhosi things. People just have to create an Arts, Culture and Heritage ministry then see how these three can have an impact on the country’s education, economy, ICTs and a lot of other things,” said Mhlanga.
Comedian and radio personality Babongile Sikhonjwa, who in the past has also been campaigning for Arts and Culture to have its own ministry, said:
“Although this is not what we wanted, it’s better. Hlongwane is an approachable minister and has in the past interacted with artistes.
“The previous minister (Abednico Ncube) who was responsible for the sector didn’t do anything for us so we’re happy with this appointment by the President.”
Added Sikhonjwa: “Surely, we as artistes deserve our own ministry as arts and culture are contributing a lot to the economy of Zimbabwe.”
Rapper, Cal Vin, while welcoming the new minister, said he expected him to help promote the local arts sector.
“We’ve lost thousands of dollars this year to international artistes who have been invited to perform here and have been paid a lump sum. We expect the new minister to put in place policies that will ensure that whatever amount of money an international act receives from a promoter as performance fees, local acts who also perform alongside get at least half the amount.
“This is the only way we can make money as local artistes from the sector,” said Cal Vin.