STAKEHOLDERS who attended a National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) consultative meeting in Bulawayo last week pleaded with Finance minister Mthuli Ncube to prioritise the arts industry when he presents the National Budget on Thursday.

Bulawayo-based musician George Phahlane said it was about time government considered artistes in their budget.

“I would like to see our government considering Zimbabwean artistes when financial decisions are made so that we can also contribute in building this beautiful motherland,” he said.

Calls for Treasury to consider the arts industry came after Nama manager Napoleon Nyani said the body was financially constrained to fund events that recognise the country’s artistes.

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“We would want to expand genres of music and categories of artistes, like story telling category in the Nama, but now we are working on a shoe lace budget,” Nyani said. Tempers flared during the meeting when money issues came to the fore with radio personality and comedian, Babongile Skhonjwa, sharing his horror experiences when he attended the Nama finals in Harare last year. “It’s quite sad to note that we are popular, but poor. Looking in retrospect last year, we had a breakdown… We were penniless to continue with our journey back home. We had to make a plan for the ladies to go first and imagine you are carrying an award and at the same time you are penniless,” Skhonjwa said.

National Arts Council of Zimbabwe director Nicholas Moyo is on record saying the recognition and floating trophy received by artistes were more valuable than monetary prizes.