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Artistes Petition City
Brenna Matendere

Artistes petition Gweru City Council
Midlands Arts Rights Board (MARB) has handed over a petition to Gweru City Council seeking to reverse plans by the local authority to shut down Midlands Music Academy.

In August in a letter directed to the organisation and a copy seen by The Standard Style, Gweru City Council chamber secretary Vakai Douglas Chikwekwe said the city needed to expand, hence the decision to shut down the academy and other buildings in the area. The local authority gave the academy six-months notice to vacate saying the development was meant to pave way for the expansion of the city’s central business district.

However, in a petition dated October 25, 2018 and addressed to town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza, in the possession of The Standard Style, MARB demanded reversal of the plan saying it violates rights of artistes. The document also puts forward a litany of demands artistes feel council must meet in order to develop the sector and promote growth.

“We understand you, the city fathers, have since time immemorial been using arts facilities like Gweru Theatre as your cash cow, renting them to opulent churches and civic organisations while artistes have no workplaces,” reads part of the petition.

“This, in our view, violates arts rights and in our opinion is unjustifiable. To make matters worse, your chamber secretary’s department allegedly issued a reckless press statement purporting to dispose Midlands Music Academy to potential investors without consulting the community.

“The arts community is offended to hear about the unfortunate development through the media. It is our considered view and we believe sentiments shared by the majority of the artistes at the 2018 Midlands Arts Indaba that the highlighted acrimonious actions should be stopped forthwith.”

The arts body also pointed out that the “threats to sell or dispose Midlands Music Academy (indicate the) highest degree of insult and insensitivity”.

Among other demands, MARB also wants council to “abort ridiculous arts facilities charges imposed on artistes; return Gweru Theatre back to its rightful administrators — Gweru Theatre Guilds, stop conditional use of community youth centres and offer us office spaces at the deteriorating Gweru Theatre for arts administration purposes”.

Muchemei Makina, the MARB chairperson, said the demands had been unanimously endorsed by artistes in the Midlands province.

“We held an arts indaba where all the matters were raised and a position to petition council agreed on. We are very hopeful that we will get a favourable response from the city council,” he said.

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