Mbabane: Governments around the world are battling to put resources together to strengthen health systems in the fight against the novel coronavirus and also to rebuild their economies.
In spite of all the measures put in place, the painful truth is that the entertainment industry is one of the industries which has been hit hard by the pandemic, and since the beginning of lockdown in March 17, 2020, there has been no income or activity in the arts and entertainments sector.
The situation called for innovations and creativity within the sector and to pull through, it requires resilient.
Looking at the nature of events and state of the situation, the arts sector is pleading from government to consider interventions to resuscitate the industry.
In 2020, the Eswatini National Council of Arts and Culture was allocated E3.9 million which reflected a slight increase from the previous year’s allocation of E3.3 million (2019/20 financial year).
This amount was enunciated by Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg in his budget speech where he tabled a total budget for the country of E24.08 billion. In his budget speech, the Finance Minister stated that the whole budget allocation was aimed to strike a delicate balance between stimulating the economy and keeping the deficit trimmed.
The Eswatini National Council of Arts and Culture, is an administrative organization, under the Ministry of Sports Culture and Youth Affairs, with delegated powers, to Preserve, Promote and Co-Ordinate all matters of Arts and Culture in the Kingdom of Eswatini.
- The Council has as members, the different art codes under its umbrella, specializing in the different art codes, namely: The Performing Arts( Music, Theatre, Dance& Beauty Pageants)
- Visual Arts ( Fine Arts, Craft, film & Television)
- Literary Arts ( Book Writing and Publication)
According to information from the government website, the Eswatini National Council of Arts and Culture affiliate members include; The Association of Swaziland Theatre Groups ( ASTG), Association of Christian Artists of Swaziland ( ACASWA), Swaziland Arts and Music Association ( SWAMA), Independent Producers Association( IPAS), Imigidvo Yesintfu KaNgwane, Swaziland National Umbholoho Association (SNUA), Swaziland Traditional Instruments Players Music Association ( STIMA), Swaziland Schools Culture Association (SSCA), Swaziland Beauty Pageant Association ( SBPA), Swaziland Visual Arts Network ( VANS), Umdlandla Writers and Authors Association), Beading Association, Pottery Association, Craft Association, Sculptures, Painters, Designers and Weavers.
In this year’s budget the CEO of Arts and culture Stanley Dlamini said they hope that government will consider increasing the budget to allow for or set aside money as an incentive for artists and to fulfil obligations for the council while ensuring availability of funds for its affiliates.
Dlamini alluded to the fact that most governments were in a mission to rebuild their economies and strengthen their health systems. Taking into account that there has been no activity which rendered artist to have no income. The CEO requested government to look into the measures that can be put in place to help the arts sector. “In last year’s budget we requested for E5 million but we were only allocated E3.9 million, money which was not enough for the council to fulfil its obligations,” he said.
Dlamini stated that looking at last year’s budget, which was enough for the sector, they were hoping for a better budget this year to be able to carry out they yearly commitments. The first burning issue that needs to be addressed with urgency Dlamini said is sorting out the issue of paying artists royalties. Dlamini stated that the Intellectual Property Rights Bill was enacted by Parliament in March 2018 which is one major step into protecting copyrights for artists.
Also the Copyright and Neighboring Act of 2018, was enacted in March 2018 to repeal and replace the Copyright Act of 1912.
The Act call for the establishment of “A Copyright office with a copyright registrar, assistant registrar and officers – responsible for all matters affecting copyright in Eswatini including creating a database of creators and works”.
“A nonprofit making body which will represent and defend interests of copyright owners, which will put in place rules and regulations, grant licenses, maintain a register, distribute royalties and manage relations and agreements with foreign societies”.
Its stipulates that funds of the society will consist of a prescribed portion of royalties and license fees collected on behalf of members, government funds and grants”. Also an Executive Director will be appointed to be the general authority of the Operations.
Guided by the law, a National independent association needs to be set up which will be responsible for monitoring collecting and compiling reposts on art that has been used to on media.
He added that there still needs to be a policy that will regulate the pay rates of music and content of artists used on radio stations and TV. If government can allocate fund for this, artist in the country wouldn’t been suffering much because they would be getting paid royalties as their content is being used in the media.
Dlamini said they also hope that government will consider increasing the budget or set aside funds to incentivize artists who lost income due to COVID-19 and lockdown. Dlamini said as government has promised last year they had hoped that artist will receive incentives from government as means to compensate them for loss of income, he said that did not happen and thy were hoping that this year government will consider it.
A loan facility will do for some the sector said the CEO. If government can provide a loan facility for artists to borrow and repay as they work to resuscitate the sector.
Dlamini made reference that some artists had their events cancelled a week before they were set to happen and by then about 90% of financial commitment has been made and that was a huge loss to the artists and event organizers. Such loan facility, when entertainment activities open, can help the artist to quickly rise back again.
Another aspect that the council wants to strengthen is creativity. “Creativity is the only key during this time, we should learn to live in the new normal”. Dlamini encouraged artists to be creative inorder to be able to survive this time. Artists should employ new strategies and be creative for them to steer up the sector again.
Empowerment and job creation
At the heart of all the activities, there is job creation and empowerment. It is worth noting that the ENCAC has affiliates which directly benefit from the tranches of money given to the council by government.
These are Eswatini Arts and Music Association (SWAMA), Swaziland National Choral Music Association (SNCMA) and the Association of Christian Artists in Eswatini (ECAESWA) among others. Whenever there are events and activities, it all contributes to creating jobs.
The ENCAC stated that the unchanged budget allocation hindered the implementation of crucial activities that could possibly improve the local arts industry.
Examples of such projects include, but not limited to, provision of sufficient funding to host beauty pageants that align with international standards, bolstering the choral music industry and empowering musicians through offering more workshops and interactive sessions.
During the interview the CEO highlighted that they want government consider the creative sector as priority especially the arts sector.
He further added that the arts sector was one of the sectors that had a lot of young people who made a living through it.
“The budget needed to consider that there are a lot of young people who make a living through arts and take advantage of those sectors. The increase is noted in the sense that it will help us upscale other programs we have. Even though the budget did not correspond to the bigger picture we had, it will respond to some of it’ ’said Dlamini.