HARARE – In the last two decades, Zimbabwe has witnessed a lot of interest from bilateral and multilateral partners in bringing artistes to Zimbabwe as well as sending artists to other countries especially Europe.
This is a positive development that enables Zimbabwe to benchmark its arts with that of other countries.
There is no law in Zimbabwe that inhibits this activity as there is freedom in arts activity in Zimbabwe.
However, it is important for those that have brought artistes (and those that may wish to do so) to know the steps to take along with the documentation required.
These procedures only apply to public performances and not private ones.
Generally speaking public performances are those in which the organisers invite the public to attend either for a fee or free.
The organisers should be certified by National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) to organise public events.
This is obviously done in order to protect the public.
Should the organiser wish to bring artistes to Zimbabwe, he/she approach NACZ at least eight weeks before the event and the Council will normally request for a contract between the artist and the organiser.
The organiser will then be issued with a letter that they take to Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and Board of Censors.
The letter together with all the contracts and any other pertinent documents will be submitted to Zimra for tax purposes.
Remuneration obtained from shows involving international performers is taxable.
A performance certificate from the Board of Censors and a Zimra tax certificate should be availed to enable the applicant (organiser) to be cleared by NACZ to hold their public show.
The NACZ clearance letter will then be taken to Department of Immigration for the issuance of a Temporary Employment Permit (TEP).
Currently the fee for TEP costs $500 per person. A group that performs together as a collective pays the same amount.
Depending on the type of certification issued by NACZ, the organiser has to pay a fee to the Council before such a show is cleared.
The above will not apply to cultural exchange programmes as defined by NACZ.
It is true that individual and groups are free to participate in cultural exchanges of any nature and follow the legally applicable processes explained above.
However, should the cultural exchange be approved by the Government of Zimbabwe through the ministry responsible for Arts and Culture or National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, then the organiser won’t pay the above fees.
Cultural exchanges may either be done as a fulfilment of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government of Zimbabwe and another government or just an individual initiative.
If it is an individual initiative without written authority from an authorised person in government, then the organisers will pay the requisite fees for holding of any show involving a foreign artists whether one calls it a cultural exchange or not.
In the event that it is an approved cultural exchange, then there will be a waiver of all the fees given above.
It is important to note that a cultural exchange is a mutually agreed activity between two or more parties.
Should any organiser wish to get waivers from paying statutory fees, the government, through the relevant department, usually the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe should have classified the activity as a cultural exchange.
Some of the characteristics of a cultural exchange include the need to have a clear mutually agreed benefits for the parties involved.
It is the responsibility of the initiating party to clearly articulate the benefits and the receiving party should agree with the proposal.
Not all performances organised by embassies accredited to Zimbabwe can be deemed cultural exchanges deserving to be waivered from paying statutory fees.
The next time an organisation plan to embark on a cultural exchange programme, it needs to engage National Arts Council of Zimbabwe for guidance to avoid unnecessary inconveniences.
This especially applies to festivals that usually bring many foreign artistes for the purposes of cultural exchange.
* Elvas Mari is the Director of National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and views and comments can be emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com