- Organizers say Minister Rakgare’s silence has prompted the petition
- Industry wants equal treatment
FRANCISTOWN: Artists are planning to petition the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development (MYSC) in protest against what they regard as negligence of their industry, The Botswana Gazette has established.
Dubbed “Save BW Creative Industry,” the idea of the petition is to call attention to a need to devise interventions to revive the industry. According to Saone Bikitshane of Sesana Arts Agency and musician Thapelo Maleka, who are spearheading the petition, “the deafening silence” of Minister Tumiso Rakgare regarding the plight of the industry and assistance for artists motivated the petition.
“We want equal treatment with other sectors,” Bikitshane told this publication in an interview. “Our industry is one of the most affected because it has not been operational for the past nine months and was the first to be closed. Since then we do not have any source of income. How are we expected to survive? It is high time the ministry intervened.”
She suggested re-introduction of wage subsidies, grants and fully opening the industry as a means of reviving it. The government could offset loss created by restricted numbers at events by assuming some expenses. She said criteria for distributing earlier subsidies had benefitted only a few artists. “For instance, the ministry knows very well that some artists have not registered with Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) but it was one of the requirements,” Bikitshane pointed out.
“Curiously, for the Presidential Awards and constituency competition, the requirement is only one’s Identity Card. Besides, all MYSC offices have databases that could have been used to pay artists not registered with BURS. It seems this was a deliberate means of keeping the numbers of beneficiaries down.”
In Mc Maswe’s view, the government can rescue the industry without neglecting COVID-19 protocols. This has been presented to MYSC along with the willingness of the industry to cooperate with public health authorities during events. “If it is impossible to fully open events or increase the number of patrons from 50, the government should at least consider subsidies,” Mac Maswe said. “Like the transport and liquor sectors, we also deserve attention when we raise our concerns because this is about our livelihoods.”
According to the Zwamaronga hit maker, the petition will be delivered to MYSC headquarters and the Office of the President as soon as sufficient numbers of artists have been mobilized.
Meanwhile, Minister Rakgare said he was too over committed to make a comment. “I cannot comment on any issue because I have a lot on my plate,” he said.