By Andrew Mulenga
Zambia Association of Musicians President Maiko Zulu’s interview with the Weekend Post’s Abigail Sitenge made interesting reading on Friday last week.
The reggae artiste told the Weekend Post that the Ministry of Tourism and Arts is “slowly coming down to just a pronouncement” because it is focusing on the tourism portfolio only. And that the ministry leaves much to be desired where art is concerned.
“Our arts minister has been inactive where the arts are concerned except for a few functions where she is invited and a speech is written for her,” Zulu told the Weekend Post reporter.
“Our strong appeal really is that if the tourism ministry is too big to be coupled with the arts then a separate ministry should have been created, so that the arts are given the deserved attention, because right now we are busy promoting elephants and Lions, forgetting that during the UNWTO people will take away the art which is in form of paintings, music, and cultures,” he is reported to have said.
Zulu is spot on with his observations but one feels it has taken too long for him as ZAM president to finally comment in this manner. However, one feels Zulu might be the wrong person altogether. It is a known fact that shortly after the realignment of the tourism ministry to incorporate the arts in July last year, Zulu and his association quickly held a gathering to celebrate the pronouncement of the new ministry and they invited the new minister, Sylvia Masebo herself.
Months after this gathering, Zulu could be seen by the side of the minister whenever she made public appearances, much to the envy of other arts organisations who found it almost impossible to even seek an audience with the minister, it was clear that he had established individual rapport with Masebo. In fact, not known to be an art enthusiast outside his genre, last year he even made an unanticipated appearance at the opening of an art exhibition by young Kabwe-based artist Othiniel Lingwabo at the Radisson Blu Hotel, where again he was right by the minister’s side.
In view of this presumed personal connection it becomes worrying that Zulu should come to the press to make assertions instead of calling the minister with whom he has contact, and giving her a word of advice, after all she does appear to be a listening minister.
In a press briefing on the UNWTO preperations held at her Kwacha House office along Cairo Road on January 2, where she also launched one of the sample songs The Beat Is Here composed by a Mrs Mabel Zulu that will be promoting tourism before the UNWTO, Masebo categorically beckoned artistes to come out and be involved, highlighting the channels with which to do so, as well as urging artists to work as a team as this will enhance government’s recognition of the arts in industry.
“Artists should get involved in a competitive manner and lend their creativity to publicising this important event (UNWTO) which is an opportunity to market Zambia’s tourism and cultural assets, in form of music, visual arts, poetry, literature, fashion and ICTs,” stated the minister in her address. “I encourage you to submit your ideas to the department of culture and National Arts Council (NAC) who will coordinate and supervise all arts activities. In the provinces, submissions should be done through the provincial and district cultural offices.”
She stated that artistes should submit their various productions no later than 15th February 2013.
In her address the minister highlighted the overall preparedness for the forthcoming tourism general assembly mentioning various projects which she had inspected with UNWTO steering committee which comprises permanent secretaries from various ministries.
She declared that the commissioning of the new departure terminal at Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula airport in Livingstone will soon be announced while construction of the international arrival terminal is progressing well and will be completed before schedule.
“The National Arts Council (NAC) and National Airports Co-operation have completed discussions on the creation of sculpture parks at the two airports” she stated.
As much as this is good news from the minister, however, it will be interesting to monitor NAC’s commissioning procedure to see that it will be all inclusive and give all of Zambia’s finest sculptors the opportunity to participate. It is also important to note that some sculptures are quite heavy and will have to be hauled from other parts of the country, unless of course NAC has the intention of ferrying artists to Livingstone to create the works from there.
Nevertheless, Masebo also mentioned the rehabilitation of Livingstone general hospital and construction of a new intensive care unit and that nine mobile hospitals will be set up at the venue.
The Old Zimbabwe market has been demolished and the marketeers relocated to three places, the Scouts area, the cross-border trade centre and cooperative market respectively while the construction of a modern one is expected to commence later this month and some toilets will be constructed at Mukuni Park Trust, Old Bus Stop and the Livingstone City Council premises.
Masebo announced that the site for the new inter-city bus terminus is at Villa Grounds, which has 14 hectares of which 6 would be left for sporting activities.
She stated that the tender to complete the works on the Maramba Cultural Village was signed in December and will be completed in 16 weeks.
“The joint UNWTO website name has been approved and content is already being uploaded. The Public will be able to access the website by February. The marketing and promotion of Zambia has been intensified as can be seen from increased media coverage internationally,” she added “Zambia will further attend the Spanish International Trade Fair (FITUR) from 30th January to 3rd February, 2013 in Madrid-Spain to promote the general assembly to the international audience.”
Certainly, marketing Zambia at an international venue is a good thing, but as to whether the Spanish International Trade Fair is the best place does yield its own doubts. Also, it would be interesting to know in which manner we will be doing so, do we have a booth or pavilion there? Who will be on the delegation, and how well are they going to implement the publicity of Zambia as a tourist destination. Or will we be sending a delegation just for the sake of sending one?
The selection and sending of relevant Zambian delegates abroad has certainly not been among our strengths as a country over the past few years, regardless of the government of the day.
Last year, we were almost surely embarrassed when we sent a top-heavy entourage that outnumbered our athletes at the London Olympics, and we might ask ourselves at what cost and benefit?
Similarly, last year Zambia sent a delegation to an International Participants Meeting (IPM), a precursor to Expo 2015, the universal exhibition to be held in Milan, Italy.
We were told by the First Secretary Commerce and Trade on behalf of the Zambian ambassador in Italy that: "So far, we have a technical working committee comprising the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, and the Embassy of Zambia in Rome. After this meeting (IPM), the national planning committee will be constituted and it will include all relevant stakeholders."
However, we still haven’t heard anything on this national planning committee as well as the so-called relevant stakeholders.
At any rate, it would be good to see the end of holiday-making delegations on important foreign tours, these trips do not come cheap at the expense of the already overwhelmed taxpayer.Anyway, back to the ZAM president and his minister. Zulu, plays a very important role and he remains one of the country’s most conscious and important artistes in terms of arts advocacy as well as providing essential leadership in the sector it would be wise for him to visit with his minister and work things out, as she said at the ZAM gathering held in honour of her ministry last year, “there is work to be done”.