VETERAN playwright, director and arts administrator, Cont Mhlanga, on Thursday berated a senior government official who tried to cut short a minister’s visit to Amakhosi Cultural Centre, leaving guests shell-shocked.
Arts, Sports and Culture Minister Andrew Langa was in Bulawayo touring various arts centres which included Isalukazi centre in Njube, Enkundleni Centre in Entumbane, Amakhosi Cultural Centre in Makokoba and Amagugu International Heritage Centre in Matobo.
The visit was arranged to enable the minister to meet and interact with the various artists based in the city.
When Langa arrived at the iconic Amakhosi Centre, he was welcomed by Mhlanga and a delegation of artists and was immediately taken on a tour of the place.
Langa was briefed on the various programmes offered at the centre, each represented by a tree planted by different artists and other stakeholders over the years, since the establishment of the centre in 1995.
The minister also planted a Waterberry tree at the centre, which Mhlanga said was a momentous occasion as it signified government’s commitment to the arts and culture sectors in the country, after the formation of a standalone ministry dedicated to sports, arts and culture.
It was when Mhlanga asked the minister to watch a short performance from a musician who was discovered through the Dreams to Fame programme run at the centre that all hell broke loose.
Principal Director in the Office of the Vice-President, Benson Martins Dube, who was standing behind Mhlanga whispered in the latter’s ear that the minister was in a hurry and could not watch the performance.
But Mhlanga would not have it, he turned around and in a booming voice, shouted at Dube for attempting to sabotage the minister’s tour of the centre.
“Why did the minister come here in the first place, if you are now telling me that the minister has to rush to Gwanda. Minister, please take your boys and get out of here,” Mhlanga charged at the stunned government official.
Langa tried in vain to calm Mhlanga down, but he continued his verbal attack on Dube saying: “This boy that wants to perform for the minister, walks every day to this place.Advertisement
“Some of them come from the rural areas and their parents sell their goats and chickens for them to be here. You sleep in big houses there in Harare and you have no idea what these kids go through.”
The minister then grabbed the opportunity to assure the stunned crowd that the government was committed to rebuilding the arts and culture industry and his tour was a testimony to that.
“We are here in Bulawayo to appreciate the difficulties that artists go through. I have taken the whole day to appreciate the issues that are affecting the arts industry in the city. I am here to learn from you and we can work together,” the minister said.
While rounding up the tour, Mhlanga fired a parting shot at the government officials.
“It is sick that your so-called principal directors have been in office for more than 10 years and yet they have never stepped their feet at Amakhosi. What advice are they going to give you?” asked Mhlanga.
An artist who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com on condition of anonymity praised Mhlanga’s brave stunt.
“I applaud Mhlanga for refusing to be bullied by these government officials. The minister has to understand the issues that affect us as artists here in Bulawayo. If he is being hurried about by his directors, he will not get a full appreciation of our struggles,” the artist said.
Langa was accompanied on the tour by Dube and Director of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, Elvas Mari, while various artists from all over the city thronged the arts centres to meet with the minister.