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Sweden terminates funding to some Zimbabwean arts and culture organisations
Taurai Maduna, Kubatana.net
March 13, 2006

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Members of CHIPAWO marimba band entertained guests during the function
Members of CHIPAWO marimba band entertained guests during the function

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has terminated funding to five arts and culture organisations in Zimbabwe citing Sida's policy of mainstreaming support in all sectors of development.

The five affected organisations are Rooftop Promotions, CHIPAWO, Amakhosi Theatre Productions, Zimbabwe International Film Festival Trust (ZIFFT) and the Zimbabwe College of Music.

As part of their exit package Sida handed over computer hardware and software valued at ZWD14 billion. An additional ZWD16 billion has been disbursed to some of the partner organisations to enable them to implement their programmes to September 2006.

Part of the computers and printers handed over to the arts and culture organisations.
Part of the computers and printers handed over to the arts and culture organisations

Speaking in Harare at the handover function, Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sten Rylander said the termination of funding should not be seen as a sign that Sweden is abandoning the culture sector. He added that Sida would be supporting arts and culture through the newly restructured Zimbabwe Culture Fund Trust. Organizations receiving exit packages will be eligible to apply to the Culture Fund.

In an interview, Mr Rylander said the restructured Zimbabwe Culture Fund Trust is a replication of the successful Mfuko wa Utamaduni, Tanzania Culture Trust Fund which he helped set up in while he was Ambassador in Tanzania -
listen to audio file

The Tanzania Culture Trust Fund is a result of a joint-effort by the Government of Sweden and the United Republic of Tanzania in collaboration with culture stakeholders. The initiative aims at promoting and strengthening the culture sector in Tanzania.

Farai Mpfunya (centre), Executive Director of ZIFFT chats to Sten Rylander, Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe
Farai Mpfunya (centre), Executive Director of ZIFFT chats to Sten Rylander, Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe

The termination of funding for the five organisations comes at a time when Zimbabwe is undergoing a severe economic crisis. Inflation is now pegged at 782% and the prospects of ordinary Zimbabweans supporting the arts industry is very low. One artist who declined to be named said people are more concerned about finding their next meal rather than spending money on a music CD or going to the theatre.

However, Alpha Chapendama, Sida Programme Officer said a sectorial analysis conducted two years ago showed that the organisations are in a position to operate viably. She added that Sida is assisting them with funding for capacity building workshops to ensure that the mindset of organisations is changed - listen to audio file

Rooftop Promotions is one of the most successful theatre organisations in Zimbabwe. In May 2004, the Censorship Board banned their critically acclaimed political satire called Super Patriots and Morons.

Davies Guzha is a theatre producer with Rooftop Promotions. The renowned actor said that the exit strategy would not affect their work but on the contrary it would enhance their operations - listen to audio file

Priscilla Sithole from Amakhosi collects their exit package from Swedish Ambassador
Priscilla Sithole from Amakhosi collects their exit package from Swedish Ambassador

Guzha said Rooftop is going commercial and is putting a value to their work. He added that his organisation has set up a department called Creative Native which makes movies, documentaries and as well as event management.

While Guzha may be optimistic about the future, Priscilla Sithole from Amakhosi Theatre Productions said her organisation would be cutting down on some of their programmes. She said that Amakhosi had tried to go commercial but their efforts are being hampered by the economic crisis.

Over the years Sweden has supported the cultural sector in Zimbabwe to the tune of USD2 million each year.

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