What 2Pac and Notorious BIG, Muhammed Ali and George Foreman, or even Slap Dee and Macky 2 can do, Mulenga Kapwepwe and Saboi Imboela can do too. In this case in what has come to be known as the battle between the Chiduku vs the Saboistas is turning into quite a cat fight. Gone are the days when people used to settle scores on the streets, these two have taken it to Facebook. This is all because of one little thing called the National Arts Council (NAC).
I am not exactly sure when this whole feud between the two started, but it is almost certain that fuel was added right after this year’s Zambia Music Awards. Media outlets started reporting that Saboi Imboela of the Shatel Fame had launched a campaign which in her words was meant to, “Hound Mulenga Kapwepwe out of the National Arts Council.” According to Saboi, Mulenga Kapwepwe has overstayed her reign as Chairperson of the NAC. Saboi further launched a petition at the Lusaka Playhouse that would get signatures of artists which would be presented to the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Honourable Sylvia Masebo. Among the people who signed the petition are well known musicians such as JK, Mampi, Mozegater, Sista D, Diffikoti among others. On 3 March 2014, the day the petition was launched, Saboi and Brian Shakarongo (Veteran Musician) further went on Hot FM to discuss the reasons why they want to hound Mulenga Kapwepwe out.
The next day after Saboi’s petition launch, Mulenga Kapwepwe joined Facebook and attempted to respond to Saboi. She answered some of the questions Saboi asked of her, which was what she was doing at NAC instead of looking for a job. Mulenga said she was working on various projects which included an animation pilot, a poetry project and a record label. As for the record label she had no name for it until Saboi’s reference of the attire Mulenga is well known for the Chiduku, hence, the label has been named Chiduku Beats. This sparked the beginning of the Facebook spat between these two artists. Each response was longer than the previous, and weaved their words as though they were writing a bestselling novel.
In all the thousands of words I have had to read through, this whole fiasco is perhaps about five cardinal issues. Saboi is claiming that Mulenga Kapwepwe has hang around far too long- 14 years, she has done nothing during her reign, she is not making it possible for Musicians to earn a living, there is no strategic plan at NAC and she is running NAC as if it is personal to holder. She cited the Zambia Music Awards as a classic case where NAC did not compensate musicians adequately for winning the awards. She explained that the judges got K15, 000 while the musicians got K3, 000. It was no wonder the musicians were suffering. Therefore, it was time kick her out of NAC and place someone new. She did categorically say that she would not stand for the position of chairperson as it would be perceived wrongly.
Why Mulenga chose Facebook to respond to Saboi’s allegations is beyond me. In her response she clarified that she has been Chairperson of NAC for 10 years and not 14 years, during her reign she assisted in obtaining funding from the European Union, lobbied to increase funding from government, developed policy for the arts, supported various artists through workshops and other capacity building activities, and this is the legacy that she has created. She also stated that her term as NAC chairperson ended in November 2013. However, NAC is being transition into a commission, Mulenga was requested to stay on in the interim which is within the authority of the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Arts to do so.
|Mulenga Kapwepwe (left) and Saboi Imboela (Right)|
This Chiduku vs Saboi bouts are very difficult to call because none of them is presenting sufficient facts and evidence to help us the public and I as an artist to choose a side. Saboi is basing her petition on the fact that Mulenga Kapwepwe has overstayed. However, the NAC constitution does not limit the number of times that someone can be chairperson, as long as they continue winning the elections they continue. Further the FIFA president has been in his position for more than 10 years and he is doing a pretty good job, it is nothing new. Therefore, the length of time that she has been there should not have been an issue but Saboi should have been telling us Kapwepwe’s failing. For some reason she is so fixated on the fact that NAC does not have a strategic plan something that she must have acquired from her academic classes. It is not cast in stone that every organisation should have a strategic plan; it is just recommended that it has one. Then she has successfully managed to ostracise the other artists, even though she uses the words artists she is implying musicians. She has failed to articulate the challenges that other artists such as writers, filmmakers, painters, poets, sculptors, etc., are facing and how Mulenga being at the helm has failed them. All she has been speaking of is how Mulenga has failed the musicians. It appears as if Saboi wants a Chairperson who will make life better for musicians or put money in their pockets. Saboi in her arguments has failed to mention a single success that NAC has scored. In her opinion NAC has been a selfish and greedy organisation run by a dictatorial leader. I find this hard to believe as definitely there must be some good that NAC has done. The 14 years she is claiming under Mulenga’s reign could all not have been wasted years. Lastly, Saboi is an intellectual and having previously served as a member of NAC, she knows the mandate that NAC has. However, she is appealing to people’s pockets and anything that does that is likely to generate support. By claiming that the musicians need to be earning a decent livelihood and NAC is one of the hindrances to this is kind of misleading. It is not the mandate of NAC to make sure musicians are rich.
In regards to Mulenga Kapwepwe, I believe that she made the right decision to join Facebook. However, to solely respond to issues that are raised on Facebook is not appropriate. What about the individuals or my parents who are not on Facebook. They are only getting a one-sided story. Mulenga should have taken the opportunities availed to her by going on radio and television to discuss this row before it reached the levels it has. It was her duty as Chairperson to set records straight, and encourage dialogue. We have well established discussion shows such as Let the People Talk on Radio Phoenix, The Assignment on Muvi TV, Sunday Interview on ZNBC to mention but a few. However, for reasons best known to herself she did not take these opportunities, instead we have been going back and forth reading long narratives on Facebook. Mulenga did mention the numerous achievements that she has scored while at the helm of NAC on her Facebook Page. I was disappointed that I could not find the website for NAC in this present age, it would have been a wonderful platform to publicise its achievements and what its role in the arts arena is. This is where all the rumours and misconceptions about the operations about NAC are coming from, because it seems to operate like a conclave. No one knows what they are doing. All this petition and hounding cries would not have happened had Mulenga as leader of NAC made it know what the achievements were and what the role of NAC is. People would then be able to make up more informed and rational designs on whether calls to hound her out are justifiable.
There is so much that can be said about this debacle, I admit this is only a fraction of it. However, the longer this Facebook feud continues, the more it shreds into the legacy and respect people will have for these two individuals. If they cannot both appear on a TV or radio platform to debate the issues and clear the air, then perhaps we should try getting them into a boxing ring. Until that happens, I can neither support a petition to hound Mulenga out or support her to continue her reign without having valid and concrete reasons presented before me. At the moment all I can ask for is that the debate continues until we get to the facts and evidence we desire. In meantime, please keep your replies short.