Implementation of arts and culture policy overdue

Daniel Maposa

THE launch of the Zimbabwean Arts, Culture and Heritage policy by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last year in November in Bulawayo was a momentous occasion for the cultural and creative industries in the country.

Never in the history of the country had the highest office in the land presided over arts and culture business.

The launch of the policy was a sign of commitment from government to the development of a sector that has always been on the margins of the national development agenda.

However, about 11 months down the line there seems to be no indication or any movement towards implementation of the policy.

The momentum and excitement seem to be evaporating, with the only hope being that the policy will not be another document that will gather dust on the shelves and computer folders without implementation.

A policy document is a dead document until it is implemented. It is just an intention at formulation and launch and becomes a living being when it begins to benefit the targeted beneficiaries.

The best way of ensuring that the people benefit from a policy is to implement it. When a policy is launched it is the role of every stakeholder to bring it to life. Government has to play its role and citizens have theirs too.

For this to happen, the parent ministry and its attendant parastatals within which the policy resides, in this case the Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation ministry, the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe should provide leadership towards the implementation of the policy.

There is need to understand at all levels that the launch of the policy was just an appetiser to the main course. Real work should have begun in earnest already.

To all intents and purposes, all stakeholders, the artists, funders, corporates and others should have put their hands at work through the leadership of ministry.

After the launch of the culture policy it is important that the ministry turns the engine on. The ministry within reasonable time should have ensured that there is massive conscientisation of the sector of what is contained in this policy document.

For the sector to have complete buy-in and play its part, it should have an understanding of the document and the direction in which the journey is headed.

Some might argue that just months after the launch, the country like the whole world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the lockdown where business was temporarily halted.

However, it is during this pandemic that some sectors found smart ways of working, through digital media platforms.

It could be easy and cost effective for the responsible entities to use social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter or radio to publicise excerpts of the policy document.

Zoom meetings could be held to host discussions. With smart thinking, smart working could be a cost-effective alternative.

For the policy document to have life and meaning to the lives of many struggling creatives, it is important that there is budgetary allocation towards implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Going forward, there is need for the sector to do intensive lobbying with the Finance and Economic Development ministry to increase budgetary support to the sector.

During the dialogue that preceded the launch of the policy, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube made commitments towards support for the sector.

These commitments need to be followed up through continuous engagement so that come 2021 going forward the implementing arms, the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and National Gallery of Zimbabwe get substantial budget allocations to implement the policy.

For this to effectively happen, the ministry should work closely with the sector and other stakeholders for input.

The policy document is a broad document that needs to be broken down if there is to be effective implementation.

By now there should have been short-term, medium-term and long-term priorities. It is in prioritisation and breaking down of work that something that looks humongous becomes doable.

The ministry and the sector need to come together and prioritise the work that needs to be done. There should be a clear implementation matrix that is followed through and it is through this process that the document can attract funding from government or well-wishers.

In conclusion, the successful implementation of the policy requires active participation of all stakeholders. The ministry needs to ensure that it involves the sector, corporates and everyone who has an interest in the creative industry in Zimbabwe.

No component of the engine must be left out of the implementation matrix. Participation breeds ownership and it is through having a sense of ownership that people feel obliged to play their part.

The time is now to implement the Arts and Culture policy. The sector has waited for a long time to have this policy. To extricate the sector from the dungeon it is in there is need for all stakeholders to play their part.

Cultural and creative industries are big business the world over and with commitment and willpower to implement the policy, our artists can get out of poverty, contribute to job creation, social development and gross domestic product. The time is now.

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