Mma-Ramotswe; populism or pragmatism?

Staff Writer
The other time during the previous parliamentary debates, MP Hon. Boyce Sebetela encouraged government to act boldly in order to help Batswana out of poverty. The premise of his comments was the debate sponsored by Duke Lefhoko on Citizen Economic Empowerment.

I agreed with him within that context and unfortunately for me as a result I find myself compelled, despite my reservation, to pour accolades on the recent government bold move to sponsor a Hollywood production at the tune of P30 million.

Granted, the movie may open doors for budding Batswana artists into the Hollywood corridors but that is a big maybe. In other words it is a gamble. Instead of heading towards Hollywood, Botswana is entering Las Vegas casinos with a whopping P30 million. I find myself trapped in confusion by the Government move to pour millions into a movie when there are no clear structures that will continue to support the same locally.

The government's bold gamble is populist in orientation than motivated by principle.  Mbongeni Ngema of Sarafina fame must be sneering in glee to realise that fate has given him a partner in one of the historical art scandals since Sarafina 2 flop. Of course, the excitement that has currently gripped the arts commune is genuine and everyone, including myself, would be elated to find the opportunity of participating in one way or the other. Congratulations to the Batswana who have made it into the production; crumbs are better than nothing.

Unfortunately, this blind excitement has denied us the opportunity to interrogate the level of balance between a once-off doling of millions into foreign hands as opposed to using that to promote local productions directly. We are hoping that since Alexander McCall Smith's books attracted a lot of international attention the same will happen with the movie and some of the proceeds may head our way in the form of tourism and promoting our movie status.

What we need is to motivate movie productions at domestic level instead of a typical Hollywood stunt, whose success is not guaranteed. Let us not fool ourselves and think by the snap of a finger the current movie production will herald our actors into international stardom. We need to cultivate the ground before attempting to plough and unfortunately this is what our

government has ignored for a long time.
The good thing about film production is that it ends up benefiting all genres of arts such as writing, music, visual art, and acting itself.

I should perhaps at this point acknowledge the government's effort in training young Batswana in these related areas, especially in the last few years. Now confronted with a mass of unemployed but trained youngsters, the government is rushing into short cuts that may backfire anytime.

Government's main role in the areas of arts should be at the foundation level such as education, and provision of facilities. The other minor roles such as supporting arts festivals, production of movies, publishing should be within a well thought out programme that is meant to supplement the foundation role. For starters I expect government to be facilitating the establishment of facilities for movie production, publishing and so on.

If we want to support the arts renaissance that is currently evident, we must be thinking of building arts centres at community level where these millions would be spread and be put to a wider use. As a writer, I think it is high time we had a deliberate government support in the realisation of a public publisher, which will be mandated to promote literature without bias to the school market as it is currently happening. It is from this publishing that subsequent filming and music will come from.

It is even worrisome that the government is dishing out these millions to this project when Botswana Television is still struggling to stand on its feet.
Btv should be turned into a public institution as soon as possible and be developed to absorb the groomed talent I have just stated above.

One of the reason we hear for the negligible local productions at Btv is that of low quality, and yet instead of addressing this, say by making sure Btv creates different channels for experimental purposes we are dishing out 30 million pula in a classic 'go isa phuduhudu bosarwa' stunt.  What a waste!



Ye of little faith...There is enough petrol!

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