Africa-Press – Eswatini. Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg yesterday presented a national budget for the financial year 2024/25, which was E29.42 billion.

This year’s allocation for the Council of Arts and Culture was E10 814 692 yet last year, it was E8 682 735.

It is worth mentioning that arts and culture falls under the Ministry of Sports, which got E58 626 217 allocations for the other seven portfolios that fall under the ministry. Last year, the ministry and its seven disciples got E53 424 749.

We reached out to a few key players in the entertainment industry to share their sentiments on the over E2 million increase in the Council of Arts and Culture and if it was enough.

Eswatini National Council of Arts and Culture (ENCAC) CEO Stanley Dlamini, when reached for comment, commended Government for increasing the budget by over E2miliion. He shared with this publication that Government made a positive statement that they supported the arts industry in the country.

This is what they had to say:

Eswatini National Choral Music Association President Sihle Gumbi

We would like to thank His Majesty the King and Government for the increase. It is indeed good news in our sector, and we hope it will go in the right direction.

Looking at our economy, it’s indeed a good one, although it’s not enough. An improvement from last year is a tick on our side. We have a lot of plans for choral music if the arts and culture can improve their subvention or allocation towards choral music because they have witnessed the growth in our sector, and last year in December, we made the country proud by winning as a country while competing with our counterparts in SA.

In order for us to improve as choral musicians, we need to have more workshops to capacitate our conductors and soloists and also focus more on the administration of choirs. Our aim is to change choral music to focus on businesses as well. We want to see choirs employing their choristers and becoming registered companies.

We have achieved a lot in choral music. The standard of choral music has grown, and currently in the SADC region, Eswatini choral is leading, and we want to maintain that. Our advantage is that we have an active calendar year, and if we can get one more sponsor for a competition, then we will be on the right track.

Looking at the previous increment, I wasn’t expecting an increase, hence the excitement we have as the arts sector for the increment.

ACEASWA President Mxolisi Vilakati

Let me start by expressing my gratitude for the increase in the budget allocation to Arts and Culture in the Cabinet and, more precisely, to the Prime Minister, His Excellence Russell Mmiso Dlamini, the Minister of Sports, Culture, and Youth Affairs, Bongani Nzima, the Minister of Finance, Neal Rijkenberg, and lastly, the ENCAC CEO, Stanley Dlamini, and his team.

I would not say it is enough, but an increase is always a positive step in the right direction.

The increase is not happening for the first time. It has happened before, and I so much wish that when it did last time we had a mechanism in place that would assist us in measuring the impact of an increase, but from a general point of view, there would be a minimum impact on the sector. We can only applaud that this time around the office will be able to execute day-to-day duties more promptly, and for that, we are grateful.

The sector needs a new, different approach to budgeting in that it should be centred on the intense development of the sector. Over the past year, the ENCAC has been able to set up arts centres in the regions, and that has greatly impacted the arts sector in that our members now have a space to showcase.

More needs to be done, if we could redirect the increase in subsidising the high cost of doing events in the country. Building a comprehensive mechanism that will regulate the sector and give local arts first preference in local and national events.

Explore opportunities to expose our artists to the international stage in a bid to stimulate the economic activities of the sector.

Mthunzi Shadow Zwane: House Musiq Fest and Eswatini Creators Awards founder

The arts have to be the most funded these days because it is like funding entrepreneurs. Once you start funding the creative space, you have made half of the problems faced by the country in terms of unemployment go away.

Most of the youth are sitting at home and not working, but they have the talent to do something productive with their lives and own their means of production if they’re supported. And in the event space, the government should help fund the festivals because none of the corporations are funding them, so we need the government to help us in that regard.

Tammy Toxik Dlamini, Epic Gig Festival Director

The allocation that was given to the arts sector is too little, looking at how the industry is growing. There are many cultural events every year, but the allocation is very limited. It would have been better if the allocation went straight to the creative sector. They are failing to understand the industry. They need to learn the industry so they can have a better understanding of how it works. We are willing to teach them to understand it better.

Culolami Dlamini Festival, Director of Farmers Market

We would like to appreciate the increase by the Minister of Finance and his committee that was given to the arts and culture sector; surely there is light at the end of the tunnel. In terms of it being enough or not, we wouldn’t be sure, because it’s the arts and culture who know about our budgets and everything pertaining to the arts industry in the country.

I would really love to see all accredited events sponsored. We’ve made too many losses; it’s even killing the spirit among us.

Banele Dlamini Eswatini Motorsport Weekend Festival director

Money is never enough, but when there is an increase, we appreciate it. It also gives the government the opportunity to see our work and appreciate it. We hope that the government sees that art centres are a vital player in boosting the economy, which will bring in revenue, and that a hopeful arts culture can promote these initiatives.

Art veteran Larry Mhlanga

While it is encouraging to see that the government has allocated over E10 million for arts and culture, I do not believe that this amount is sufficient to achieve the desired outcomes. In my view, a dedicated Arts and Culture Fund is crucial in order to make a meaningful impact on the industry. Such a fund would allow for investment in both grassroots development and in turning the arts into a viable business.

With a dedicated fund, we could see the establishment of initiatives such as incubation hubs for artists, start-up funding for businesses in the arts, and training and mentorship opportunities for artists. This would not only benefit individual artists, but it would also contribute to the development of the industry as a whole and ultimately boost the economy of Eswatini.

I would also like to highlight the importance of strengthening the relationship between the government and the private sector when it comes to funding for the arts. There is a need for private sector organisations to be incentivized to invest in the development of the arts through tax breaks and other incentives. This would encourage more organisations to get involved in the sector, which would in turn have a positive impact on the industry.

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