Masvingo City bullies artists over Theatre

by | Mar 25, 2021 | Entertainment, Local News | 0 comments

Brian Temba

City of Masvingo has moved in to evict Masvingo Arts and Theatre club from Charles Austin Theatre at the Masvingo Civic Centre.
The two institutions have been embroiled in a silent battle over the occupancy of the facility and Masvingo City Council has drawn first blood through serving their tenants with an eviction notice.
The eviction notice from Masvingo City’s Chamber of secretary Mr. Shonhai gave the multi-award-winning Theatre club up until June 30, 2021, to move out of the building for council to bring new tenants.
In its defense, City of Masvingo accuses Masvingo Arts and Theatre Club of not paying rentals and water bills.
Masvingo Arts and Theatre Club chairperson and writer of the famed Restore Regasi play, Charles Munganasa said Masvingo Arts and Theatre club said they do not owe rent as claimed by the local authority.
“The theatre, just like any other business in Masvingo has a payment plan with Masvingo City Council and we have been paying our rent according to the payment plan.
“Masvingo Theatre and Arts Club inherited a debt which was leftover by Masvingo Drama Circle after they were dissolved but Theatre continued to pay the debt that was left behind by the drama circle,” said Munganasa.
Munganasa also said City Council is on record of taking advantage of the situation and using the facility without paying anything knowing fully that the theatre club hires out the facility as a means of business.
“Whenever the City Council has a meeting they come and take over the theatre but they don’t even pay for the hiring.

“Sometimes they even come for a whole week, using the theatre but still do not pay for the service,” added Munganasa.
Charles Austin Theatre is a hive of activities, often hired out by entertainment promoters and churches for their events. The same money is used to pay the administration and security as well as the rent, electricity, and water bills.
Council workers have even gone to the extent of watering flowers and lawn using metered tape water from Charles Austin Theatre and when the theatre engaged their superiors over the eventual bill of the water consumption they were told they are the owners of the building and they do not have to pay anything.
Another accusation Council has been hurling at Masvingo Theatre and Arts Club, during their full council meetings, is that they are not maintaining the facility well, which Munganasa says is a complete shift in goalposts from what they signed for on the lease.
He argued that if there is an entity that has neglected the theatre for a long time it is actually the City Council.
“According to the lease agreement between the theatre and City Council all refurbishments were supposed to be done by the City Council, but for the past 30 years, City Council has neglected that clause in the Lease.

“Even if you call them to repair a roof leak or a simple pipe burst as City Council they never come, in the end, the theatre uses its own funds to do so,” he added
Among the expenses theatre has paid is refurbishing the building with a new ceiling, repainting the whole building, refurbishing the Doug Hill room which is used for conferencing, redoing the seats in the Auditorium.

Munganasa dismissed all allegations of the Theatre club turning the building into a brothel saying they have no evidence of such things occurring at the facility.
“The mayor, town clerk, former city engineer, housing director drinks here and never at any point have they seen a brothel.
What the theatre club does is open up space for the young to partake freely in arts and theatre. We opened the place for every citizen of Masvingo to come,” he said.
Munganasa said back in the day the theatre was a place just for the elite but the theatre club represents the end of that elitist culture which makes them the threat to expose the city’s backroom shenanigans.
“What they want to see is a place where they can bring their girlfriends and where there are no young people so they can enjoy the facility in their privacy.
A community project like Charles Austin Theatre can never be privatized for the enjoyment of a select few,” Munangasa added.
It is just 3 months after the death of the former mayor of Masvingo and last surviving member of the committee that built Charles Austin Theatre Mr. Doug Hill.
Mr. Hill was very supportive of the arts community during his days and when the Theatre was donated to the City Council it was meant to serve as a hub for arts and theatre.
Charles Austin Theatre under Masvingo Theatre and Arts Club has achieved the following; International Film Award in Hollywood (Gonerazhou the movie), NAMA award (Seiko the Movie), NAMA Nomination and International Recognition (Operation Restore Regasi Play), NAMA Nomination for (The Graduates Play) and NAMA nomination for (Ananias and Sapphira)

The theatre has produced great artists and popular icons who are making putting not only Masvingo but Zimbabwe on the map such as Singers Garry Mapanzure, Baba Shupi, reigning Miss World-Zimbabwe Belinda Potts, and Hollywood award-winning Director Sydney Taivavashe.
Munganasa said if there is any place that is being turned into a brothel in Zimbabwe it is the Masvingo City Council.
“They should bring the evidence that the Theatre is being turned into a brothel because unlike their false accusations we have read in several newspapers of how directors there are involved in relationships with interns, that is a brothel.
We have seen people who are drunk and failing to do their jobs which we are paying them to do as ratepayers,” he said.