By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
President Cyril Ramaphosa having announced his long awaited Cabinet reshuffle on Monday, different sectors had their own expectations and even anxious as to how their respective sector was going to be affected.
The creative and culture sector was no exception. This is particular so because to many it was a foregone conclusion that Former Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa was not going to keep that position. Indeed he was reshuffled and replaced by the younger Zizi Kodwa. Kodwa cut his political teeth in the ANC Youth League. His power within the ruling elite was however elevated during the current administration with deputy ministerial positions until now when he became a full minister handed the DSAC portfolio.
His elevation to this position seems to have been cautiously received well with the arts sector so far. That is going by the views of artists on social media ever since Monday. Kodwa takes over political leadership of a department that under the previous minister was divided, angry and distrusting.
That is where Kodwa must start. Building trust with the arts community should be his point of departure. Then he needs to move with speed to deal with issues within the arts funding agencies, and those issues are big. In fact it is those issues that the previous minister did not deal with adequately, which caused the anger, division and mistrust within the arts and creative sector. And for years.
The real starting point should be to engage with the leadership of the various organisations to hear them. Understand their frustration and gauge their expectations. Such engagement should be genuine and be based on mutual trust and respect. And yes there are various organisations claiming to represent artists. Some have no known membership.
They formed themselves to such associations to position themselves strategically to lobby for funding. You can even be cynically and add, to eat from the trough If you like. The arts body currently is a mixed. The good, bad and ugly. But some have actual followers.
This is a known factor and it has always been a worrisome feature of the sector to have all these various formations with varying agendas. But this is no time to continue to divide the already divided, angry and distrustful arts sector, but for the minister to engage all of them.
Hear them. Including the ones that have no followers but claim to represent the arts sector. After all they are artists. And of course the associations that actually have memberships and followers must also be engaged. In other words, this is time for the arts sector and their new political head to reboot. Restart the process of engaging from a fresh slate.
After all they now have a minister who has the ear of the president. He has been in the presidium for a while now and to have such a guy being in charge of the arts portfolio, should give artists cautious optimism.