THE Minister of Sports, Youth, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry announced a ZW$17 million relief fund to support youth-led businesses and associations in order to mitigate the effects of Covid-19.
While the ministry explained that the fund is being offered as a grant and the objective is to “build capacity” among youth-led businesses and associations, artists were also among those who were encouraged to submit their names for consideration.
Though hopeful that they would get a piece of what observers say is a very small cake, some artists are raising questions about the selection criteria as most fall outside of the stipulated requirements such as being formally registered. The majority of Zimbabwean artists eke out a living as sole “traders”, whose income is not regular.
“The youth fund is clear and supposed to help those who are in business . . . But we know for the arts we were the first to be hit. We were told to stop all the activities and we know that a lot of artists have been making a living out of performances,” Raisedon Baya, a leading playwright, said in an interview with this paper.
“Names of every artist that is registering for the relief fund are being submitted to the social welfare fund. I personally have a lot of reservation around how the minister is doing this. We needed a relief fund specific to the artists.”
Another artist based in Bulawayo, Mzoe 7 said the “(The) lockdown has made me appreciate fellow artists more and the important they play in society, such that it’s almost impossible to be on lockdown without a radio, music, movies, books, pictures, TV etc. It shows how much artists are of importance in our daily lives.
“It’s good that the ministry has decided to help artists also in these trying times as they are also the most affected. Hoping the communication channels will be more clear (sic) and reaching artists from all spheres, both the old and the young ones.”
He hopes to also benefit from the fund. “We are very much hoping so, as to how much I can’t say but I think the ministry will work on something tangible.”
Coventry said: “We have set up, the United Programme for Artists and Athletes of Zimbabwe (Upazim), which is meant to carter for those into arts and sports . . . While for youths we also identified essentially two groups within youths that is youth businesses run by young people and youth organisations, which usually do volunteering who will benefit from this scheme”.