The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to the Chairperson of the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts and Culture, Beauty Dlulane, to request an urgent meeting with the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, the National Arts Council (NAC), and all relevant stakeholders in the arts and culture sector regarding the debacle surrounding the Presidential Economic Stimulus Programme (PESP) relief funding.
The Council must also explain the reasons behind the suspension of NAC CEO, Rosemary Mangope, and NAC CFO, Clifton Changfoot.
The NAC and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture have been stumbling from one bungled operation to the next during the Covid-19 pandemic. Neither seems to have a grasp on the industry they’re meant to serve, and thousands of people are suffering due to their ineptitude and bureaucratic red tape.
Not only were those in the arts and cultures sectors not given enough time to apply for the first round of Covid-19 aid, but many were also excluded because they did not have the means to apply in time or they were not covered by the scope of the aid.
Now, they are again getting the short end of the stick. The NAC signed contracts with more than 600 artists for projects that would have been funded from R300 million PESP funding and also provided employment for many more with whom subsequent contracts have already been signed. The projects have commenced, and now the Council wants to break these contracts because its own board were unable to prepare a simple budget – that’s what the NAC would have us all believe at least.
The truth is that a veil seems to be drawn over the inner workings of the Council. On Monday, Sibongile Mngoma, an opera singer and president of Im4theArts and the South African United Cultural and Creative Industries Federation (SAUCCIF), were forced to stage a sit-in at the NAC offices because her simple request for information remained unanswered till the close of business.
Those in the arts and culture sector are frustrated and desperate. They have continually spoken out against the Department’s bungling of Covid-19 relief funds, but the Minster and the NAC seem deaf to their cries for help. The Minister can rename as many cities, towns, streets and park benches as he likes, it will not detract from his dismal performance or the blood of a whole industry on his hands. He and the NAC must provide South Africa with answers.