Winning elections—be it for the first or second time—is not an easy task. Besides promises, popularity plays a key part. There is a lot the public expects from the next government.
Undoubtedly, political leadership in the 50 years since independence have failed to move the country forward, and what is tricky with this year’s elections is the fact that voters are divided by their interests.
Some political analysts have warned political parties to take time on their manifestos.
And it is evident that most parties are still undecided on what can sell them best, as of today, only two parties, the United Democratic Front (UDF) and People’s Party (PP) have unveiled their manifestos. The other bigwigs, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are still working on their manifestos.
For many years, arts and culture has not been a government. Despite being under the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture, which was is a key government priority area, the arts and culture sector has been a tail.
Chill took an initiative to talk to leaders of various arts sections to learn about their expectations from the next government.
Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) says this year’s elections carry the hope of musicians and they will only associate with a political party that has a manifesto that promises better environment for musicians.
MUM president Chimwemwe Mhango said there are crucial areas that affect the success of musicians and these need a serious government.
“We want a government that can help in the establishment of the Culture Policy which holds the success implementation of the Arts Council. Currently, artists are paying heavy fees to use private venues and we want a government that can construct more auditoriums and other venues that can allow various artists to showcase their talents,” said Mhango.
Like MUM, the National Theatre Association of Malawi (Ntam) and Film Association of Malawi (Fama) want the Culture Policy prioritised followed by enough allocations for the implementation of the policy and create a better platform to promote arts.
“It is sad that the only viable means of promoting music and theatre through education is not being utilised. You can observe that children practice music at kindergarten and primary, but not in secondary school when they are mature enough. It is time we inculcate music and theatre in our curriculums so that we nurture talent from the grassroots,” said Fama president Izaus Mkandawire.
Art graduate Jethro Longwe says there is need for next the government to make visual arts a force that can help drive the nation’s economy in creating jobs.
He says because most schools do not teach art or encourage art education, most art graduates end up in a field that they did not study or even remain jobless.
Sadly, some of the official and draft manifestos which Chill has seen have left out the crucial issues the arts fraternity wants. Some are unclear as they are not explaining how they will carry their initiatives.
The MCP draft manifesto has good ideas that respond to some crucial demands, but is not clear on how they will achieve the dreams.
So far, only the PP manifesto holds promise for the arts. The manifesto says they will promote the film industry, develop a comprehensive roadmap and corresponding infrastructure that provides a platform for the full exploitation of the Malawian film-industry, encourage private sector to support the youth in art development and develop a regulatory framework for the arts industry and enforce piracy laws.
They say they will also uphold and promote a national heritage to promote a distinct national identity on the international stage, preserve and construct national monuments and the establishment of cultural centres.
They have also touched on research and documentation of Malawi’s cultural heritage and construction of purpose-built cultural infrastructure such as museums, arts centres, theatres and national archives.
However, UDF, which launched its manifesto last Sunday, has completely shied away from the arts.
In an interview, the party’s publicity secretary Ken Ndanga defended the manifesto, saying the document only touches on crucial areas.
“We cannot have every detail then it will be bible. Our priority is to stabilise the economy first and this will make funds available. We will then plan with the funds available to support arts. Under infrastructure, there are arts venues. So, artists should note that the manifesto does not limit operations of a political party,” said Ndanga.