Government has made huge inroads in terms of developing the industry since President Ian Khama ascended the top seat. However the gains made maybe lost if they are not protected through revision of legislature and establishment of relevant statutory bodies e.g Arts Council. Government must realise the past the Presidents’ Day competitions, Constituency Competitions and other programmes aimed to empower musicians has unearthed more than 20000 arts practitioners in the form of musicians, producers, choreographers, production companies, artist managers, promoters e.t.c. Now with these cadres of music industry practitioners in a two million population it’s a high number which must be managed through organised structures. The starting point should be to review the powers that the Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture has in controlling, managing and growing the music industry. Personally I don’t believe MYSC has enough powers to regulate the industry. I can tell you there are so many foreign musicians who perfom in this country without permits. This is because MYSC is under-capacitated both financially and human resource-wise. Secondly, because the permits are not streamlined you can go to a Kgosi (Chief) and get a letter to stage an event and thereafter it becomes difficult for the Police at times to shut down a show because people have a letter from the Kgosi (Chief). Councils are also involved which makes the whole process difficult. The MYSC also has no powers to close shows with no permits.
With the Copyright Act while 90% of the constituents of this Act are at MYSC the Blank Tape Levy is at the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry. So how is MYSC supposed to develop the arts without TheCopyright Act? The big question is why is the Blank Tape Levy at the Ministry of Trade? The reason why this levy was created was to develop the arts and developing the arts does not necessarily mean giving out grants through the Blank Tape Levy Board, it extends to building facilities, capacity building of the entire industry, growing production of local content, hosting international events (SADC Cultural Festivals, AU Music Day, UN International Jazz Day) that can catapult local artists to international stardom at the same time create jobs and contributing to the GDP. The piracy level is the highest to the extent that there is no single shop that sells music in Botswana. There is a need for MYSC and MTI to have an MOU where at least 50% of the Blank Tape Levy can be passed to MYSC who are custodians of the Arts. The current situation is similar to a situation where MYSC will start functions of registering Youth Companies and ask the Ministry of Trade to fund them. So this upside situation must be fixed in earnest and also issues related to Piracy addressed.
In short the music industry has grown because of the resources government invested at grassroots level. Government is now faced with a challenge of growing the industry at professional level to keep the artists afloat. These days shows are held in farms or ploughing fields because there are no venues. Now we have a situation where law enforcement agencies are fighting the commercialisation of the industry because the national land laws prohibit staging shows in ploughing fields, when you try and stage in a hall people complain about the noise. But when you try and take the noise to ploughing fields they close you down! What are we saying kante? In short government need to empower MYSC legally and financially if the music industry to avoid losing all the hard earned gains.
Yours in Music