Don’t be cry babies, Cont tells Mat youths

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YOUNG people in Matabeleland will need to let go of “victim mentality” if they are to fully benefit from the opportunities that the proposed changes to the broadcasting sector in Zimbabwe would bring, Amakhosi Cultural Centre founder and director Cont Mhlanga has said.

Khumbulani Mpofu
Own Correspondent

In an interview on Wednesday, the second day of the relaunched Inxusa Festival, Mhlanga said: “I know we are coming from very difficult times. We are a region that has continuously been made aware that we are marginalised.

“Continuously, day in, day out, we are marginalised.

“That in itself has disempowered our young people and they now think they can’t do anything.

“They think opportunities are for other people that are not from this region,” he added.

“As a result they have fallen victim to this ‘marginalisation chorus’ that they now don’t go out and break doors where it’s their right.

“Responding and dancing to the chorus of marginalisation has really killed our young people.”

Inxusa Festival was officially relaunched on Tuesday evening, after a 15-year hiatus which Mhlanga attributed to a need to restrategise.

He felt it had been fast growing into a musical, rather than a theatre festival.

The theme for this year’s festival was “merging cultures” which acknowledged and celebrated the diverse cultures found in Bulawayo.

During the official opening ceremony, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira reiterated the government’s commitment to the opening up of airwaves by licensing new television stations.

“What is going to be happening in this country is that because of the migration of television from analogue to digital, which should happen by June 2015, we are going to have multiple television channels,” he said.

“As you know, we are very clear on 75% local content policy.

“What this means is that we are going to have to require a lot of these festivals, but not just in this theatre. It must be packaged for television.

“We must now have these stories being written for television so that we have content.

“You are the answer to the content industry. And the content industry is going to expand in phenomenal ways in the next year and that is an opportunity for you,” Mandiwanzira said.

Mhlanga welcomed Mandiwanzira’s remarks and said it was encouraging that the government recently made all the right noises, but young people from Matabeleland could only benefit from this if they let go of protest mode and start to engage the government.

“If we are going to engage and apply for these opportunities then we stand to benefit,” he said.

“If we remain in protest mode, we won’t even apply and, inevitably, the licences will be awarded to other people.

“You remain at a disadvantage because you didn’t engage. Just by applying means you are engaging, and I think that’s the right direction,” he explained.

Many talented young people, according to Mhlanga, are not realising their full potential as artists because there aren’t enough institutions to support and showcase talent to world markets.

This lies in our hands as citizens of this country, and particularly, residents of Matabeleland.

Part of the solution, he said, is to build radio channels, television stations, build centres and other spaces that can connect that talent. Institutions create that capacity.

“We must build institutions that will connect this talent to markets. Such institutions cannot be somebody else’s institutions, but ours. Success is driven by institutions,” Mhlanga said.

“The reason why we consume more foreign work, than Americans consuming more work from us, is because we don’t have institutions that can take work from here to America yet we have so much talent.”