Contending With COVID-19 Is Especially Hard For Artists – BOMU
- Says most artists are in informal sector
- Engages with gov’t for special reprieve
- Ministry in the process of helping creatives
The Coronavirus could be the final straw for most local artists who are already struggling to make ends meet, a spokesperson of the interim committee of the Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU), Phemelo Lesokwane, told this publication recently. He noted that the creative industry was the first to be hit by the pandemic and that many artists were falling through the cracks of the government’s relief provisions.
“Most of our artists, about 90% of them, fall under the informal sector,” he said. “This has left many of them facing real hardships since their incomes collapsed while they still need to pay rent and buy basic necessities. Our request is for the government to make a special reprieve for these vulnerable Batswana by lifting lockdown restrictions for them.”
This situation has prompted the union, in conjunction with the Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA), to consult the youth ministry to map out a way forward on how best they can assist industry stakeholders. Lesokwane said they were in contact with artists across the country to encourage them to negotiate with their landlords and to put themselves foward for food relief baskets while BOMU concludes arrangements with the ministry.
“We will be meeting with the ministry again soon where we will hopefully have a resolution. One of the issues raised at the previous meeting was to formulate a creative industry recovery fund for grants to help the industry without delay. For now, I would like to urge Batswana to support local talent so that we may survive this state of uncertainty,” said Lesokwane.
During the special parliamentary session held at Ditshupo Hall in Gaborone last week, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, said the process of extending assistance to creatives had begun. His office would communicate as soon as a proposal submitted to the Ministry of Finance was approved, the minister added.
The lockdown has resulted in closure of creative spaces and cancellation of projects and gigs, drying up many artists’ incomes. A serious concern is that it might take a while for the industry to recover while most artists are already finding it hard to pay their bills and are drowning in debt.
“From artists, band members and dancers to sound engineers and production houses, we are all feeling the pinch,” Lesokwane said.