Starving industry seeks crumbs of comfort

Sharon Mathala

With the Entertainment industry suffering greatly from Covid-19 restrictions, the starving sector has called for sustenance through funded virtual shows.

Since the middle of March, all major events and social gatherings have been cancelled. With the rest of the year likely to follow a similar pattern, artists believe online shows could be the answer to their financial conundrum.

However, this can only be sustainable through funding.

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Government, through the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC), had come up with a Relief Plan, which they pinned at P70 million.

The scheme was meant to cover 15, 000 performers from April through to June, with artists set to receive P2, 500 a month and back-up artists eligible for P1, 000 a month.

Briefing the nation last Friday, MYSC Minister, Tumiso Rakgare admitted that only a portion of the performers have been assisted so far.

Voice Entertainment reached out to the city of Francistown and spoke to MC Maswe.

Starving industry seeks crumbs of comfort
FED UP: MC Maswe

The fed-up veteran did not mince his words.

“I am bitter. I am a hungry lion, so to speak, waiting to explode. We are dying! Artists are depressed. There is nothing on the table. We have been promised things that have not been delivered!” blasted the Ghetto favourite.

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Outlining the ‘dire situation’ performers find themselves in, MC Maswe called on Government to intervene ‘before the ticking time bomb explodes’.

“We were told to register with COSBOTS to qualify for the relief. Most of us have, but about four guys have thus far received the relief. What about the rest of us? It’s been months!”

Sharing similar concerns, local heavyweight Franco told Voice Entertainment his band contains 25 members.

Starving industry seeks crumbs of comfort

According to the Rhumba legend, who was forced to cancel his ‘Soul Fill Up with Franco’ festival scheduled for the beginning of April, he has to deal with reports of ‘hunger situations’ from the members.

“The last paying event I had was on 31 December. You can imagine how we have been surviving for the past 8 months, not to talk of the financial loss I made preparing for a show I had to cancel a the last minute,” said Franco, who was equally scathing about Govt’s Relief Plan.

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“We have no one to speak for us, even the relief the Ministry talked about up to now there is nothing. I don’t want to come across as if I am difficult or anything but some sort of relief would go a long way, a food basket, anything, just for the survival of the artist,” begged the Rhumba King reduced to a pauper by the Covid-19 pandemic.

But what could the solution be?

Businessman and event host, Thapelo Fish Pabalinga of Gaborone International Music and Culture Week (GIMC) calls for virtual shows.

“Other countries have bigger numbers when you talk of Covid-19 stats than us but they have opened up the industry. We all need to think deep on how we can assist the creative industry. The one thing I cannot advocate for is irresponsibility. We can’t be irresponsible in how we approach this!

“I suggest virtual funded events could be a way out. MYSC should try and put money into virtual events. They won’t be upsetting the task force and putting some sort of bread for the artist.”

Another reputable promoter, David 52 is similarly convinced that virtual shows are the way out for the starving industry.

“We applied for the relief but we are still waiting months later. We have rent to pay. We buy food. We have families. There are so many proposals that we have submitted to MYSC.”

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David 52 went on to say, “Virtual shows can be an answer. We can have the Government sponsor some of the virtual shows and they can be broadcasted on TV. Local TV for long has been struggling with content, this is the time for the industry to shine. We have comedians, musicians just to mention a few which can contribute to the TV content.”

Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary at MYSC, Kago Ramokate stressed his Ministry will announce initiatives to assist the beleaguered industry ‘in about two weeks’.

However, Ramokate is tight-lipped about the plans.

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“I am not at liberty to announce the initiative because the Minister will do so in about two weeks. All I can say is yes we have received proposals and we have been working on how we can assist. But as Government, there is only so much we can do!”

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