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Government urged to engage with artists over R300m ‘funding bungle’

By Kaya 959 News

The Democratic Alliance is urging the National Arts Council to engage with artists who staged a sit-in at their offices in Newton last week. Since March 1, a group made up of dancers, singers, musicians, actors, visual artists, poets, crafters and puppeteers, have been protesting at the NAC offices.

The artists were forced to vacate the offices after the NAC was granted a court order from the South Gauteng High Court.

“Most of them are artists themselves after all. The whole of the sector has suffered from the irrational regulations of the government decimating the economy and the arts and culture industry during the extended Covid-19 lockdown. This has stripped many South Africans of the dignity of gainful employment. It seems to have stripped the NAC of a little more – their humanity and compassion,” said DA MP Tsepo Mhlongo.

Mhlongo said artists were exercising their right to protest peacefully for more than 40 days by staging a sit-in at the NAC offices in an attempt to get answers from the council regarding promised funding from the Presidential Economic Stimulus Programme (PESP) to the tune of R300million.

“The artists have told the DA that there had been no stoning the building as initial reports indicated. They have also indicated that they have no intention of leaving the NAC premises. The NAC`s unlawful decision to break legally binding contracts awarded to more than 600 artists caused much misery. Many of these artists had already commenced their projects and created employment for others in the arts and culture sector when they received the NAC’s announcement of contract breach. The majority had also not received a cent of promised payment from the Council,” Mhlongo said.

He added that while there is an understanding that the council only started their term in January 2021 must feel, many of its problems could have been solved had the NAC decided to be transparent with the artists and engaged with them. Instead of forcing the artists from their premises, the NAC should rather seek to solve this crisis of its own making and speed up payments to artists.

“Multitudes of people who were employed in the arts and culture sectors have lost everything. They do not have homes to return to and have no food to eat. The NAC has now robbed them of hope as well. This, while there are ever more reports seeing the light of alleged maladministration and corruption regarding the PESP,” Mhlongo said.

Last month, an investigation into the mismanagement of funds was launched.

Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the forensic investigation would look into how officials overcommitted the R300m, with some creatives getting nothing, and others receiving more than they had applied for.

According to Mthethwa, people overcommitted the money and funds that were given to them. Part of the R300m is still there, part of it has been disbursed and part of it is still being disbursed.

He added that on March 1, council decided to halt the process. He said the CFO was also suspended.

Picture source: Twitter

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