Legislators fight in artists corner

BY VENERANDA LANGA

PARLIAMENT last week expressed dismay over the poor standards of living for local artists and bemoaned how a weak legal system was failing to protect their intellectual rights amid indications that the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation owed creatives over $1 million in royalties.

Youth, Sport and Arts ministry permanent secretary Thokozile Chitepo torched the debate after appearing before the Mathias Tongofa-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Sport and Arts to speak on her ministry’s 2020 budget proposals.

MPs said artists were being compromised because the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act (Chapter 26:05) which deals with artists, was being administered by the Justice ministry instead of the Youth, Sport and Arts ministry.

Bulilima West MP Dingumuzi Phuti (Zanu PF) said Chitepo must reclaim the piece of legislation from the Justice ministry.

“How do you co-ordinate arts issues if the law on intellectual property is administered by the Justice ministry and yet you are the ministry (Arts), which is at the receiving end?” Phuti asked.

“As a result, arts issues end up getting trivialised because they do not get the attention they deserve and are affected by issues like piracy.”

Proportional Representation MP Tatenda Mavetera said the Youth, Sport and Arts ministry must be proactive to ensure the development of the arts sector and cited Nigeria, where she said the music and film industries were top foreign currency earners.

“As a ministry, you need to look at ensuring that the industry grows in Zimbabwe so that it can also add into the fiscus,” she said.

Phuti further said failure to grow the arts industry had resulted in artists being trivialised to the extent that they were not getting the attention they deserved.

“Nigerian artistes contribute to the fiscus about US$14 billion annually, and I believe that if the Act is superintended over by your ministry, it will improve the welfare of artists, who are key to the economy,” he said.

“People think that for one to be employed, they need to acquire a degree. No one knows how many people Jah Prayzah employs, but he is a big employer, yet there is lack of co-ordination of this particular Act.”

Chitepo said currently, there were about 13 ministries superintending over different pieces of legislation pertaining to arts.

“We acknowledge that we need an Act to enforce and safeguard the arts industry and our culture. On the issue of royalties, Youth, Sport and Arts minister Kirsty Coventry wrote a letter to Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa and ZBC saying they were unable to pay because it was over a million dollars, but they committed to paying a percentage,” she said.

Chitepo said her ministry was working on a creative culture strategy to deal with funding, infrastructure, equipment for artists and marketing issues.

Do you have a coronavirus story? You can email us on: news@alphamedia.co.zw