I’ve an open-door policy: Coventry

Kirsty Coventry

YOUTH, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry yesterday said she had an open-door policy contrary to claims that she was not interactive.

Coventry told NewsDay Life & Style on the sidelines of the artistic Freedom and Decent Work workshop in Harare yesterday that most people misunderstood her.

“I don’t know why they (artists) say that. I always meet with artists as I have an open-door policy,” Coventry said.

“Any artist is welcome to visit my office anytime.”

The artists are on record complaining that Coventry was failing to understand the challenges they face because she does not interact with them.

Meanwhile, some artistes who spoke to NewsDay Life & Style said there was a lot that needed to be done to promote artistic freedom in Zimbabwe.

Playwright and film producer Tafadzwa Muzondo said it was sad that sometimes accountability works are deemed anti-establishment.

“As much as artistic freedom is enshrined in the Constitution, the actual freedom has relatively improved in the new dispensation depending on the topic one is tackling. When artists tackle political topics, it does not make them political activists,” he said.

“There is, however, need to repeal the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act (CECA) which the Rhodesian Parliament passed to target obscenity and blasphemy, but it is currently being used to target works deemed to be politically incorrect.”

He added: “As it stands, the CECA is out of sync with the Constitution and there seems to be no urgency in aligning it. A creative is allowed to be disruptive not always constructive for the advancement of democracy and development.”

Savanna Trust theatre director Daniel Maphosa said the CECA was one of the laws that derailed the attainment of freedom of artistic expressions in Zimbabwe.

“The concept of censorship in itself is antithesis of free expression and the many times that the law has been used to prosecute or ban artistic works have left artists feeling like there is always an axe above their head, resulting in self-censorship,” he said.

“Also, in contemporary times artists who have publicly expressed their political and social ideologies have been castigated, not only by the State, but also by some citizens. There have been advocates of silencing artists whom some don’t agree with, yet democratic societies encourage people to respect the views of those they don’t agree with.”

Maphosa added: “So, the threats, banishment, arrests and insults that artists endure shows that there is limited freedom of artistic expression in Zimbabwe.”

The two-day workshop is being hosted by Unesco regional office for southern Africa, in partnership with the Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation ministry, International Labour Organisation and Nhimbe Trust.

It is part of the Unesco Regional Creatives for Development initiative, which is a comprehensive programme that supports the strengthening of the creative sector and the empowerment of artists and cultural professionals in southern Africa.

The workshop also seeks to explore the obligations that governments, in close co-operation with civil society, have in terms of reporting on policies and measures taken to promote artistic freedom, in particular in the context of standard-setting instruments such as the Unesco 2005 Convention and the Unesco 1980 recommendation.

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