Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Clive Malunga narrates how govt officials neglect arts industry

Jenaguru Arts Centre founder and legendary musician Clive Malunga has narrated how several government officials created obstacles that have affected the growth and survival of music, arts and culture in Zimbabwe.

The award winning learned musician who rose to prominence in the New Millennium with hits such as ‘Rudhiya’ and ‘Nesango’, narrated several initiatives that he came up with to support the arts industry but line Ministries blocked him.

Malunga, who is a war veteran and a Zanu-PF supporter writes his mind every week on his website, clivemalunga.co.zw.

In his latest article, Malunga who produced over nine albums said:

“Jenaguru Arts Centre has established itself as an arts organisation in Zimbabwe and Japan. The organisation has contributed immensely to the teaching of arts in Zimbabwe and the popularization of Zimbabwean cultural music and dances in Asia. The Centre has groomed many individuals who have gone on to become successful artists locally and abroad.

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“Our successes could have been higher if we had been given timely and consistent support by the government. Most of the time, this has not been the case. Instead, top government officials including ministers and permanent secretaries have sometimes flatly refused to support our projects which are meant to benefit many Zimbabweans and, more treacherously at other times, frustrated our fundraising efforts aimed at developing arts infrastructure in the country.

“When I came up with the idea of building an arts centre in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Education and Culture led by the late Dr Witness Mangwende countered the idea arguing that only the ministry had the prerogative to build arts centres in Zimbabwe.

“In what appeared to be conflict of interest, the Minister was vociferously supported by his permanent secretary, the late Mr. Steven Chifunyise who was also an artist in his own right. I was about to secure financial assistance to construct Jenaguru Arts Centre from the Royal Netherlands Embassy but the two worked tirelessly to block the funding.

“Ironically, the permanent secretary was running arts projects and the minister had no problems with those projects receiving donor support. Desperate for a solution, I ended up presenting my proposal to the then Deputy Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Honourable Kembo Mohadi but it was just a formality because deputy ministers have no powers to override a minister’s decision. Honourable Kembo Mohadi was very sorry that I was going through difficult times with Minister Mangwende and Mr. Steven Chifunyise,” he said.

“In all the years I have dealt with the government ministries responsible for arts and culture, I have observed that its top most officials have been the biggest hindrance to art development in the country. They have not been supportive of arts and culture initiatives of the citizens.

“You can imagine that in 2021 when I invited the Minister of Arts, Sports and Culture and her deputy (Honourable Kirsty Coventry and Tino Machakaire respectively) to attend the ceremony to unveil the tombstone of Tinei Chikupo in Murehwa, they both refused.

“The permanent secretary of the ministry also refused to be part of the unveiling ceremony. The ministry which has the mandate to support the arts sector refused to support my idea to buy tombstones for departed musicians.

“When the Ministry of Arts failed to assist, I then approached the Minister of Information and Publicity, Cde Monica Mutsvangwa, who gave me an audience with her at her office. I was welcome, I must admit. She apologised saying that she could not attend the ceremony because of an appointment elsewhere.

“She, however, appointed her permanent secretary, Cde Nick Mangwana, to be our guest of honour during the tombstone unveiling ceremony. Honourable Minister Cde Monica Mutsvangwa provided the public address system, filming equipment and manpower. She did all she could to assist me. At least, that time around, I felt the comradeship between the two of us.

“I had another challenge with the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture. I sought permission from the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture to take some school children on a cultural exchange tour of the Far East. At that time Dr Lazarus Dokora was the minister while Professor Paul Mavhima was his deputy. Permission was necessary because I would be travelling with underage pupils, mostly from grades 3 to 5. The young boys and girls required extra care because of their ages.

“The Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture had made a proposal which would allow me to travel with two teachers, one male teacher and one female teacher. The two teachers were supposed to provide lessons to the kids while we were abroad. The male teacher would look after the young boys while the female teacher would do the same for the young girls. This was a very good idea on paper. However, a challenge arose because I had to finance the teachers with air tickets, accommodation, food and allowances. I did not have the resources and I asked if the ministry could assist by financing the teachers. They could not.

“I had already indicated to Honourable Dr. Lazarus Dokora that I would be traveling to South Korea and Japan, and the minister had told me he was also going to South Korea a week earlier on government business. Honourable Lazarus Dokora is the only minister responsible for arts and culture who took his time to visit Jenaguru Arts Centre with his subordinates.

“It was a great honour to welcome the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture at Jenaguru Arts Centre. Dr Dokora had assured me that I would get an exemption letter from his ministry to travel with the kids to Asia without the two teachers. When I approached the director of education for the exemption letter, she told me that it was not possible for me to go with the kids to Asia without the two teachers. I then went to the Minister’s office only to be told that he had already left for South Korea.

“My last option was to seek Professor Paul Mavhima’s intervention. He told me that he had no power to assist. I had to seek the minister who stood in for Honourable Dokora for a final decision. He also suggested that I phone Comrade Khaya Moyo. When I called Comrade Khaya Moyo, he said he was at Morris Depot for a Police Pass-out parade with President Robert Mugabe. He suggested that I should find out who the acting Minister of Education was.

“It was too late for me to find the Acting Minister of Education because we were supposed to fly out the next day in the morning and all kids were supposed to check in at Cresta Lodge Msasa a day before departure. My sponsors had already paid for the hotel bookings, food, packed breakfast and shuttle bus to Robert Mugabe International Airport.

“Hotel bookings had already been concluded in South Korea and Japan as well. I went back to the Ministry of Education to persuade the director to give me the exemption letter because sponsors had already used huge sums of money for the tour. She insisted that it was impossible for me to go with the kids to Asia without the teachers and suggested that I should just cancel the trip.

“I had tried all avenues but to no avail. When I realised that government workers were about to go to their respective homes, I really ran out of ideas. Parents of the kids were waiting for me in Domboshava. All the travelling kids were from Zimbiru Primary School. I had made a deliberate outreach programme to give a chance to underprivileged children. All the kids were very excited. It was going to be the first time they were going to fly. They were to fly to South Korea and Japan via Hong Kong. I felt very bad and betrayed by my ministry.

Malunga added: “Suddenly, God gave me a good idea which made me a winner after all the hustles. I decided to go and get permission from the parents of the children going on tour. It was getting dark and my managing director was waiting for me at Cresta Lodge. I drove all the way to Domboshava. All the kids were prepared to go. They were all waiting for me.

“When I arrived I told them about what I had gone through during the whole day. We decided to go and see the headmaster at Zimbiru Primary School, Mr. Maluva. The parents told the headmaster that they were giving me permission to travel with their kids. The parents were now on Jenaguru Arts Centre’s side.

“It was already very late, around 10 pm. We could not go with parents for a pre-departure party as per our tradition. We normally would meet parents at Cresta Lodge and have lunch and dinner together the day before departure for cultural tours. The Culture Fund of Zimbabwe were the ones who sponsored us with accommodation, food, transport to the airport and tracksuits for all members. The parents had to come to the airport early in the morning on departure day.

“The kids had a wonderful tour of Asia. The kids showcased our traditional Zimbabwean dances as well as learnt Korean and Japanese cultures. We managed to secure sponsorship for all the kids. Well-wishers started paying school fees for all the kids.”

Accordingly, Malunga recommends that there be a separate ministry that deals with arts and culture only while being led by artists.

“The arts and culture sector is unique and complex. Although most people appreciate arts, few know the nitty-gritties of arts production and artistic processes. It is my view that there must be a separate ministry that deals with arts and culture only and that the ministry must be led by artists. I believe that only when we have people who ‘think, live and dream arts’ at the helm of the arts ministry will we begin to see growth in the arts and culture sector,” he wrote.