SONA fails to answer the Arts industry’s SOS

Sharon Mathala
President Masisi

As President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) rumbled on this Monday afternoon, it became apparent he was not going to mention a possible recovery plan for the entertainment industry.

With the starving sector still reeling from Covid-19 enforced restrictions, it had been hoped Masisi would outline a path out of the gloom.

However, the President’s SONA silence on the matter has instead heaped further uncertainty on the industry’s already murky future.

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With gigs limited to 50 people and bars only allowed to open for three days a week, on a takeaway basis with severely restricted operating hours, the industry is a skinny shadow of its former self.

“I note with sadness that many sport and cultural activities for 2020 were either postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19. I wish to indicate, however, that the postponement and cancellations were necessary for the protection of our people,” stated Masisi simply.

Voicing his disappointment, Seabelo Modibe, organiser of the Botswana International Music Conference (BIMC), told Voice Entertainment he had been left ‘confused’ by the President’s address.

SONA fails to answer Arts industry's SOS
BIMC ORGANISER: Seabelo Modibe

“I thought as far as the creative industry goes, the President would address the general welfare of the practitioners; that he would share what type of strategies his Government is working on. Right now, people are not going to eat laws, people want to know certainties about their future. I thought he would deal with the problems, but instead, it was one paragraph and so…” muttered Modibe, his thoughts trailing away and left unsaid.

Expressing similar frustration, Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) President, Phenmelo Lesokwane noted, “There was no update in terms of mitigation to the creative industry.

SONA fails to answer Arts industry's SOS
BOMU PRESIDENT: Phenmelo Lesokwane

“We are suffering and we were expecting the President to at least highlight how they will cushion the industry. Yes, some benefited from the relief but most did not because of the requirement.”

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For his part, the Minister of Youth Sports and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, stressed it was still too early to consider reopening the industry.

“The complaint is that they want Government to open up the industry but if we open and then we have huge shows and the virus spreads and we lose lives, the same people they need for their shows; it won’t make sense!”

“Reluctantly I have suggested at least up to 200 people at events but it is a bit too early for that conversation because the virus is spreading. We need to control it first!” reiterated Rakgare.

However, there was at least some good news for the film and television industry.

During his SONA, Masisi announced his Government has proposed a Cinematograph Act that will help address some of the issues affecting the film industry.

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“To further optimize the potential of the creative industry, the Cinematograph Act is being reviewed to strengthen the local film and television industry. The drafting of the bill is expected to be completed by the end of this financial year.”

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