The Minister responsible for the arts, Shaw Kgathi has shied away from revealing the budget for the newly established constituency competition for the arts.
The constituency arts competition will run side by side with the controversial constituency league, which last year cost the tax payer over P30 million, not including unpublicised sponsorships from the private sector.
When asked to say how much the government is pumping into the competition this year, Kgathi answered: "Prize money and related logistical costs cannot be quantified at this time when the number of groups who would be involved, the number of officers who would be needed to cover the various activities, the length and breath of the country to be transversed, etc, are still to be determined. The programme is also intended to be a partnership between government, the private sector and local communities and their contributions cannot be pre-determined", the Minister said in a written response.
However the minister did say that part of the funding will come from the alcohol levy, while the other funds will be sourced from the ministry's recurrent budget. The local communities and the private sector are also expected to lend a helping hand, Kgathi explained.
The competitions will see 490 wards taking part, with no.1 and no. 2 taking home P3,000 and P1000 respectively in each constituency, while the constituency champions will win themselves P5,000 and P3,000 respectively. fifty-seven constituencies are taking part.
Kgathi further explained that there three categories have been proposed for the initial competitions. The categories are drama, traditional song and dance, and dikhwaere. "These categories have been selected on the basis that they attract large numbers of youth participants than other categories which can be undertaken by one person.
The competition is exclusively for the unemployed, out of school youths, and Kgathi says the decision is intended to keep the unemployed, out-of-school youth meaningfully engaged to ensure they stay away from street idleness, which can easily lead to alcohol and substance abuse. "The decision is also meant to unearth the huge reserve of artistic talent which resides untapped in most youth"(sic).
However Kgathi admitted that the art competitions are off to a bad start. They were initially set to start in January 2010.
"There have been some delays due to critical issues that emerged in the process of consultations with the various key stakeholders. We are, however, still hopeful that these delays will not derail us from the deadlines we have set ourselves for the completion of the first cycle. Some constituencies have already completed their schedule of activities while others are in the process of finalising them".
By monday Kgathi's office could not furnish Mmegi with the number of participating groups. Kgathi said it is not possible to give the number of groups which will be participating right now as the initial registration exercise yielded insufficient numbers of participants to give direction as to likely future trends. Consultations with communities are continuing and it is likely more groups will take part in the first cycle than have registered right now, Kgathi wrote in his response to the Mmegi questionnaire.
The competition has been scheduled to run three times a year. The first cycle of the competition was initially billed to be complete in April, which would then see the competition revolving again from council wards from May to July, before starting the cycle again from August to November.
The constituency art competition comes at a time when the country is faced with a serious shortage of manpower even in sport competitions.
The constituency football league itself has been hampered by inadequate manpower to drive it among others, forcing the government to look upon the Botswana Football Association (BFA) to coordinate it. The BFA have opposed the competition saying it represents logistical problems among others, although some within the BFA also argued that the government's move is tantamount to government interference in the running of the sport.
The question of logistics has once again cropped up as the government struggles to coordinate the constituency arts competition. Interestingly the new arts competitions coincide with the preliminaries for the annual Heritage month competitions which have already stretched the limited human resources in this area.
Kgathi says he will mobilise all government officers in his ministry as well as District Officers to coordinate the arts competitions. He said: "My ministry will mobilise all the human resources at its disposal at the local level, including Regional Culture Officers, Regional Youth Officers, Staff of the National Library Service as well as those from the National Archives and Records Services, volunteers from the local communities to engender a spirit of self-reliance, and these structures would work with the support, collaboration and cooperation of the District Administration throughout the country".
Kgathi went on: We are sensitive to the busy schedule of work of District Commissioners/District Officers hence the need to mobilise these structures to enhance capacity at the local level and lessen the burden on the District Administration.