Im4theArts is a vehicle to mobilise artists and people who make their living within the cultural and creative industries to participate actively in bringing about meaningful change within the sector and in society at large. Im4theArts is highly concerned about the manner in which the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) is dealing with issues relating Arts and Culture in South Africa.
From January 18 when Im4theArts was started on Facebook, we have lobbied for the rights and interests of artists. We have spoken up against government abuse of power, their lack of understanding of and appreciation for the arts and artists, gatekeeping behaviours and lack of communication. Because of our strong voice and rapidly growing membership, we managed to get two meetings with DSAC. Immediately after the second one, the announcement was made that the Revised White Paper on Arts and Culture, which had been languishing for five years, had finally been adopted by parliament. While we applaud this development, we are concerned about the communication thereof, and we request that DSAC improves this so that all involved can be informed.
During the lockdown, we have made many efforts to engage DSAC. We have worked urgently to try to contribute to the strategy to make sure artists are taken care of properly. We have tried to assist artists to access the relief funds available to them, despite the many hurdles put in their way by DSAC. DSAC however made sure we were excluded and ignored, choosing rather to work with CCIFSA (a largely discredited so-called federation, initiated by the department), veterans and certain select organisations which were not necessarily as proactive as Im4theArts. Today we are sitting with artists who have still not received help. Both black and white.
Some organizations thought that because of their pedigree, they would be immune to the rot that is DSAC. Many new organizations and companies have sprouted during the lockdown, as artists have tried to respond to the crisis it has brought with it. With every announcement of billions of relief funding by the President, more organisations were registered. In all of this, Im4theArts kept a steady hand on the issues. This did not come without a lot of opposition and criticism. There have been many who wanted quick solutions which may or may not have sustainable.
Im4theArts has held weekly webinars since the beginning of June to keep artists informed about matters that relate to them. On 26 August, we held a webinar to deal with the 2nd wave of Relief funding which DCAS had announced. SARS and DSAC were invited to be part of this webinar in an attempt to clarify the procedures for artists. Despite our reasoned objections and warnings that artists would not be able to meet the criteria for tax compliance, DSAC went ahead with their plan. As a result, it soon became clear that the 2nd wave of relief was not going to reach the artists who desperately needed it.
On 28 September 2020, Im4theArts and other organizations met with Senior SARS Officials under the leadership of Dr Rebone Gcabo and Mr Mark Kingon to address the issues around TAX Registration / Compliance that had been the stumbling blocks for Creatives in their Application for COVID19-Relief Funding. SARS made it clear that they follow the instructions from DSAC, and so it was decided that there should be a follow up meeting with the various organizations involved in the relief funding, inclusive of SARS, DSAC, BASA and NAC. This follow-up meeting took place on 05 October 2020.
Thereafter, DSAC asked to be given time to engage with the Commissioner on the Tax issue and to revert to the organizations. SARS expressed their willingness to work on the problem and find solutions. However, up until this day, the DSAC has not given a report back to the organizations. An announcement regarding the economic stimulus package should have been made by the same Department by now, but this too has not happened.
On 20 October 2020, Im4theArts along with colleagues from the theatre and dance sector, presented to the Select Committee of Education, Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture, which holds DSAC to account. The main focus was to communicate the sector’s growing dissatisfaction with the levels of inefficiency, lack of capacity and failures of the DSAC; to note that these frustrations have resulted in increased public protests against the DSAC and the public humiliation of the Minister, the DSAC and its officials across various social media platforms. As Im4theArts Chairperson, Karabo Kgokong called on the Select Committee to intervene and to call DSAC to account, while also making it clear that DSAC’s imposition of CCIFSA on the sector is not acceptable, given CCIFSA’s failure to be held accountable for public funding in the past. At this time, artists are unable to feed their families or pay their rent, and there is considerable hardship and suffering across the sector. Members of the Select Committee expressed their concern about the allegations that were made, and promised to ensure proper oversight and better communication with the artistic sector.
Im4theArts therefore calls DSAC to treat Creatives, the organizations that represent Creatives, and all stakeholders in the Creative Industries with respect and to ensure the disbursement of all outstanding relief funds with the utmost urgency. This should apply to all qualifying applicants, who have not yet been paid. In addition, Im4theArts calls for DSAC to consult with the sector on the implementation of a long-term strategic plan for the revitalization and sustainable growth of the arts sector as an immediate priority given the dire current conditions.
Released 20 October 2020