Zimbabwe: Short-Lived Relief for Arts Sector

There was joy across the arts spectrum on Thursday when President Emmerson Mnangagwa granted the re-opening of the showbiz sector, but it was short-lived after Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga last night banned all gatherings except funerals.

Chiwenga, who is also the Health minister, announced a raft of measures meant to contain the spread of the respiratory disease.

His announcement, which comes on a backdrop of rising new Covid-19 infections, included the limiting of number of people in shops, changing of business hours, closure of market places and banning of all gatherings, including music shows, among others.

Zimbabwe is expecting an imminent third wave of the respiratory disease following recent increase of cases.

On Friday the country recorded 192 new cases of Covid-19 in a single day with three people succumbing to the disease. There were 1 089 active cases.

Mnangagwa reacting to pressure from artistes had given a nod for the re-opening of the showbiz sector, but with strict conditions.

He said live gigs can resume on the condition that the number of attendees does not exceed 50 people and follow to all Covid-19 protocols.

However, artistes' joy was short-lived last night as there are prospects of a Covid-19 third wave strike, according to Chiwenga.

Public health expert and medical doctor Johannes Marisa said when Mnangagwa announced the resumption of music shows he had not anticipated a sudden increase in the number of infections.

"I see that when the president granted that beforeA realising that Covid-19 cases are on the rise again," said Marisa.

"The vice-president later banned all gatherings, including music shows as the country tries to curb the spread of the disease."

Marisa said there is need to be vigilant in the wake of an impending wave of Covid-19.

"If you check records you would see that Covid-19 cases are increasing in the Sadc region with Namibia and South Africa being the most hit.

"In that case, we should try by all means to prevent the disease and one way of doing it is to have restrictions, of which gatherings are part of that," he said.

Following Mnangagwa's announcement on Thursday, artistes had welcomed the president's gesture, but they said the government should do more for the sector.

Raisedon Baya, the director of Intwasa Arts Festival and arts practitioner, said the limited number of 50 will make it difficult to make a profit off shows.

"The announcement is good news in that it now means people can put up shows without breaking any law," Baya said.

"However, the number 50 will make it difficult for most shows to be viable, for example if you pay for the venue, publicity, public announcement system, technical crew and so forth, how much will you have to charge for the show to make a profit.

"We must also understand we are in the middle of a pandemic and health issues are important. So we are still in a catch 22 situation, hopefully things will ease up as we move on."

Kadoma-based arts promoter Tawanda "Carlito" Gochera, who is known for hosting Miss Schools, Miss Kadoma and Kadoma Music and Arts Awards said the president should review the number of attendants for the arts sector to thrive.

"We appreciate what the president has done to re-open the sector. it has been a whole year of inactivity," Gochera said.

"However, our only plea is for the president to review the number of attendants, we would be happier because the more, the merrier and also the more returns we get from organising shows.

"We also started working on the return of the Kadoma Music and Arts Awards and we hope by the time we host the fete at the end of the year and the sector will be fully functional."

Qeqeshiwe Mntambo said although the president opened the sector the arts are still limping.

"We welcome the kind gesture by the president, it had been long since we graced the stage and had an intimate moment with a live audience," she said.

"However, the money and effort we put in to host a show and the returns that we will get from a show only limited to 50 people won't tally.

"It will be hard to host shows. Yes, the arts have been 'opened', but we are still limping from the effects of lockdown."

On Thursday, a number of musicians and artistes took to social media platforms to thank the president.

However, a music critic said Mnangagwa's gesture was not sincere as the regulations left gaps.

"If you look closely, the president did not talk about curfews and the current Covid-19 regulations have time restrictions.

"How feasible is to have a music show of 50 people?" the critic asked.

"There is a certain motive behind all this. It's politics at play. The president is trying to win the hearts of artistes because we have an impending election. Open your eyes here, this is just politics."

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