Friday, August 12, 2022

Minister of Youth Sports and Culture also represents the Arts!

It is a fact that when President S.K.I. Khama came into power, he breathed fresh air into the arts by first establishing the Heritage Day Competitions, Constituency Arts Competitions as well a policy for Government to start purchasing artworks from local artists/galleries. These programs helped in the grassroots development and rural artists were integrated into the mainstream arts industry. On the other hand most cultural/arts activists and workers feel that our Minister has spent so much time away from us and the time he gives to Sports and Youth matters by far exceeds the time he gives to Arts matters.

While H.E. brought in sweeping changes that nearly transformed the industry, there is still hostility and reluctance from those at the top because they have their own opposing ideas and their hearts remain with sports and youth matters therefore resulting in, these competitions/programs not being planned and implemented properly. I have just learnt that a month or two after the Heritage Day competitions winners have still not been paid their prize money for their participation in the just ended competitions.

While the purpose of the competition is not to win prize money but to promote self reliance and sustainability/continuity of these community cultural groups, not paying them their prize money is counterproductive, demoralizing and discouraging for artists who have spent so many years/decades not having any platform to perform. Some would have spent tens of thousands on attire and rehearsals preparing for these competitions.

This incident reminded me of one of the meetings I attended at the Ministry when I was B.O.M.U. Sec. General, where one top official from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture asked us why the Ministry should fund Arts organizations? I remember answering her by asking if she could explain the reasons why the Ministry was pouring millions into BNYC, BNOC and BNSC?

While there was tension after my question I remember a follow up question from one of the guys from Drama Association asking the lady why she was getting a salary at the end of every month? The meeting became chaotic, and ended up unproductive because of the tone on which it started. The Arts also did not progress as they were not in this lady’s agenda. During her term there was no artist development whatsoever. At one point she ignored B.O.M.U.’s request to meet her regarding the cutting of hours for festivals and decided to fly out of the country without formally apologizing for cancelling the meeting. Upon her return she kept on avoiding B.O.M.U. executive. While this is history, the current Minister has to turn and make sure that the ill treatment of artists in the past remains in the past.

Therefore I believe the Minister and Ministry officials need to have conscious, administrative, religious and political will to see artists progressing and performing at the highest level. The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture must be seen to embrace the President’s initiatives rather than to come out counter-productive and un-supportive when it comes to payment of prizes.

Although the money eventually gets paid, this paying late can amount to exploitation if it becomes a norm that every year.

The behavior and attitude of the Ministry towards musicians is disturbing as it shows that we are not recognized for what we have done and continue to do for this country. The Ministry seems not to be fighting from the musician’s corner as far as matters of artist’s development and empowerment are concerned. The Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture must take the Minister of Presidential Affairs head on and request that the studios that were supposed to be built 3 years ago as per H.E.’s directive be built as a matter of urgency. For the Ministry of Presidential Affairs to make a decision not to build the studios, means that they are continuing to deprive musicians recording facilities and in the process defying the Presidential directive. The Minister should encourage his counterparts to review the airplay quota by NBB on licenses issued to radio and TV stations, as there is too much foreign content on our radio and TV stations. If we had more of our music playing on air then we would have more local musicians releasing albums and having a vibrant industry.

The Minister of Youth Sports and Culture should request the Minister of Trade and Industry to come up with productive strategies of fighting Piracy as Piracy in Botswana has reached the rooftop. He should also encourage her to advise C.O.S.B.O.T.S. to engage stakeholders on the on-goings there.

There are so much undemocratic practices there that flaunt corporate governance procedures.

C.O.S.B.O.T.S. is said to represent us and has been soliciting funding and employing people under the name of artists whose whereabouts they don’t have any clue? That is why they don’t issue messages of condolences when artists pass away nor attend funerals. They are a capitalist organization that is only interested in servicing Registrar of Companies and no one else.

The Minister should also stop this tradition that is becoming rife in the government enclave where musicians are being asked to perform for free or for charity when the other suppliers are paid e.g.

caterers, PA System/Stage suppliers, tents and interior decorators, hotels and lodges. It is unfair to starve musicians and have other people being paid for their services. We need to have regulations on voluntary/charity events by government and how suppliers should be sourced because this is serious exploitation of musicians especially those in the villages and rural areas.

While we understand that the Copyright Act and National Broadcasting Board are not under the armpit of the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture we believe the Minister must have hawk eyes and constantly keep the people at Registrar and NNB on their toes to make sure all these Acts are implemented and artists are fairly treated. The Minister must always ask for reports from them because things are not moving at the pace that they should be. For example the National Taskforce Committee on Copyright last met in 2010, its lack of regular meetings has led to high piracy rates.

Initially Taskforce meetings were supposed to be monthly but that has not been the case. The taskforce committee became redundant as people met to have tea and biscuits and no implementation of resolutions, so people decided not to attend meetings and the committee became redundant. The Ministry of Trade also at one point was not clear if there was a set budget to implement the Copyright Act or not but one may ask, why have an Act that you cannot implement?

Hon Minister should also work towards making sure that the Botswana National Arts Council Bill is tabled in the next Parliament sitting. This matter has dragged for decades (34 years to be precise) since it was proposed.

The Minister must also try to come up with means of making sure that funding of B.O.M.U. is reviewed as it is high time B.O.M.U. employed a C.E.O. and operated professionally. If there are no funds we could do away with certain national events or one of Ministry Affiliates grant can be reduced by P3million to allow for B.O.M.U. funding . In any case these affiliates have for decades been benefiting more than musicians.

This will be one way of showing that musicians are also recognized/heard at the Ministry.

If not, the Minister must touch base with the Minister of Trade and Industry to publish the rules of the Blank Tape levy which we understand the Ministry of Trade has hijacked and given it exclusively to C.O.S.B.O.T.S.

This is not in line with the Copyright Act because firstly the fund is for all artists not exclusive to a clique (C.O.S.B.O.T.S.).

Secondly whenever there are funds, an advertisement should be published so that all organizations could put in proposals B.O.M.U. and C.O.S.B.O.T.S. included.

Not whereby C.O.S.B.O.T.S. is funded through arm-twisting tactics and has a blank cheque awaiting them from the fund. We beg our Honorable Minister to help us fight against the extinction and exploitation of cultural workers in Botswana as people who are supposed to assist us have all decided to misdirect themselves.

Yours In Music
Seabelo Modibe
Cultural Activist/Worker

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