By Shakirah Thebus, Theolin Tembo
Cape Town artists, creatives and performers were expected take to the streets in artistic protest and in solidarity with artists from across the country in the ongoing protest against the mismanagement of funds meant to assist the entertainment industry, but they have had to postpone the protest.
The “Day of Protest Art Performances“ was set to take place at the Artscape Plaza and forms part of larger ongoing action, a sit-in at the National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC) offices in Newtown, Johannesburg.
The Day of Protest Art Performances had to be postponed due to unrelated protest action in Cape Town organisers said.
“This is due to continuing and unrelated protest action across transport routes that places artists and supporters travelling to the city centre in danger.”
The Day of Protest Art Performances is now expected to take place on Saturday.
Several artists have occupied the NAC offices since March 3 over the mismanagement, misappropriation and slow dispersion of relief funding meant for artists in the form of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP).
The NAC manages the distribution of the PESP amounting to R300 million on behalf of the national Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.
NAC chief executive officer Rosemary Mangope and chief financial officer Clifton Changfoot have been suspended pending an investigation into the matter.
Renowned opera singer Sibongile Mngoma, leading the peaceful sit-in, said there were currently around 20 artists sitting in at the offices.
A meeting was held on Friday with Minister Nathi Mthethwa, which Mngoma said had been pointless owing to the minister’s ill-preparedness.
The process of relief fund distribution should have been completed around mid-January, said Mngoma.
“We are asking to see proof of payment. Who has been paid, how much and for which project because we keep getting amounts of approved people but in terms of actual payment (nothing) where funds have been spent. The payment process has been slow, so it looks suspicious and it looks like funds are gone.
“Whilst we are here, we are asking other questions about (other) relief funding as well, because we have a case of people or an agency that has a track record of being corrupt and maladministration and they keep getting funds to disperse – a process done unsuccessfully for the past 20 years.”
Artists had planned to gather with performances from local dancers, singers, actors, musicians, poets, puppeteers, actors, visual artists and crafters.
“In late 2020, a PESP of R300m was announced for disbursement via the NAC. The package was focused on employment creation and retention initiatives for artists, creatives, cultural and heritage sector workers.
“Applications were called for, assessed and the first grant recipients had contracts sent to them, and in some cases funds disbursed to them.
“The NAC then reassessed the situation and made the unilateral decision to recall or revise contracts and cut initially allocated funding amounts to artists, many of whom had leapt into action and were already working on the projects that had been funded,” read the statement from protest organisers.
The MEC for Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais, said: “It is soul-crushing that some applicants are still awaiting their promised financial support from the national government, almost a year on, particularly as a direct result of procedural inadequacies and maladministration as is evident in the suspension of both the CEO and CFO of the NAC.”