THINGS are falling apart at the Charles Austin Theatre in Masvingo.
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
Leeroy Gono, the theatre’s artistic director, is embroiled in a nasty fight with the Masvingo Drama Circle management committee that could soon spill into the courts.
Gono accuses the management committee of greed and mismanagement of the Charles Austin Theatre.
He was appointed the first black artistic director at the theatre in July 2013 and managed to take productions to various theatres in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
But just last week, Gono received a letter suggesting that his employers would now stop paying his salary.
“The truth of the matter is that some of these people were not happy with my appointment, they felt they should have been the ones given the job,” said Gono.
“The new contract they want me to sign is a breach of my standing contract that says that I am employed for three years.”
Chairperson of the management committee Gideon Masarira accused Gono of lying about securing funding from the embassy of the United States.
“He came on board under the pretext that he had agreed with the US Embassy that they would fund his salary,” said Musarira.
“There was nothing like a contract signed when he joined us. We paid him US$1 500 per month for three months that we feel we need to recover.”
The new contract, seen by the Standardlife&style, apparently renders his position a volunteer post.
Terms of reference in the contract stipulate that “Masvingo Drama Circle shall not pay salaries and allowances to the incumbent” and that no contract exists between the incumbent and the organisation.
Gono however maintains he was contracted for three years by the organisation.
“It all started with my appointment in July to rescue the theatre which had been on a downward spiral, thus being the resident artistic director initially for a three-year period with a view of extension,” said Gono.
“In my tenure for the first time the drama circle was invited to an international festival which also opened doors for them to even get another invitation to Holland.”
He said to his surprise some individuals in the management committee demanded to travel with the team that went to Durban last year throwing the trip into turmoil.
“I initiated an event called Thursday Nite Live for artistes to showcase their talent and get the necessary grooming. This was widely received and it gained popularity. It was not until I saw that it was now deviating from the vision that I suspended it,” he said.
“It had become a rendezvous popular for binging, the abuse of drugs and alcohol. People were even caught having sex on one of the nights.”
Gono said the chairperson refused to allow him to close down the bar which has been causing problems ranging from unaccountability and loss of control.
“Their approach has left Charles Austin Theatre without any activity. In fact it has shut down in terms of arts business,” said Gono.