COVID-19 halts state theatre construction

Sharon Mathala

P5 million set aside for the project

Plans to construct the much-awaited state of the art state theatre in the capital city has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the Ministry had approved and set aside P 5 million for the preliminary planning of the infrastructure, the construction was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

To check the progress of the project, which was, approved this February by Government, Voice Entertainment reached out to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, (MYSC) Kago Ramokate.

Ramokate explained that the delay could very well be extended to next year.

“There is no progress for now on the project. You will know that the financial year began in April and that is when the whole country was under lockdown. The plan was to have the preliminary planning to at least be complete by end of this year so the construction phase could begin, but to date, mainly because of the uncertainty brought by Covid-19 we have not made any progress,” Ramokate said.

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Initially the intention was for the planning phase to be completed by the end of the year.

Asked if they had identified land for the state theatre Ramokate said, “The Ministry has land yes, the land opposite the youth council was an option to build the theatre but we are keeping our options open for better spaces.”

Further asked about the COVID-19 relief for artists who was budgeted at P72 million, Ramokate said that by the end of the week 75% of the qualified performers would have been credited.

Asked to respond to the allegation that they were strict in their criteria the PS answered, “I don’t think we have been strict as you put. Only the main artist section is where one had to strictly provide bank statements. But for others as long as one had an affidavit or a reference letter they were eligible to qualify for the relief.”

For his part, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tumiso Chilliboy Rakgare said the entertainment industry could expect a better package in two weeks.

There had been growing concerns and calls from some sectors of the industry for the Government to partially open the industry.

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“We have to be responsible in how we deal with the virus. We cannot just open up the industry because there are risks involved that need assessment. The truth of the matter is most industries have been affected. A lot of people have lost money but this is a pandemic we are still grappling with and the priority for me and Government is to save lives,” said the youthful minister.

“What I can say however is that we have proposals that we have been assessing and in about two weeks time we would have come up with a plan on what service the industry players can give to Government which they would then be paid form,” Chilliboy added.

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