Artists and creative practitioners are suffering after more than a year without proper support from the national Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, and with severe mismanagement of the relief efforts that have happened so far.
While most national relief attempts have been inadequate in the face of the complete devastation of the industry over the past year, the most substantial promise of support from Government came in November 2020, when funds to the order of 300 million rands were given to the National Arts Council for a Presidential Economic Stimulus Package (PESP) to support creative practitioners devastated by COVID19. This was a moment of hope and potential regeneration of the creative and cultural sector which had been decimated in the past year, but once again hopes were dashed by the mishandling of the grant by the National Arts Council, and the failure of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture to hold them to account.
Individual artists and organisations applied for the PESP funds and those successful were contracted on the basis of a particular rate per job retained/created by their proposal. Then, two months later, these same beneficiaries were informed that they would only get a percentage of the funds promised and/or contracted and were asked to sign revised contracts which substantially reduced the amount allowed. Apparently this was due to the National Arts Council having over-allocated the funding they had available. In addition, many people were not informed about the outcome of their grants, the funds which were meant to be paid out to these beneficiaries, were delayed and in some cases, reduced amounts were promised but no payments were received. (By end of March, the NAC announced that they had paid out less than a third of the promised R300 million, for projects which were meant to happen between January and March 2021.) This meant that many artists used their own resources to try to complete projects on the ground, but were then out of pocket, and worse off than if they had never applied for the funds in the first place.
In addition to the above, there were clear indications that certain Council members were recipients of funding from the PESP, despite this being in defiance of good governance processes and of South African administrative law. There was also evidence of corruption where certain individuals had applied under cover of different organisations and had been awarded funds several times through devious means.
This debacle so enraged South African artists and creative practitioners, led by Sibongile Mngoma, that they occupied the NAC offices in Johannesburg on 3 March 2021 and have remained there for over a month. They have been calling for transparency and accountability to counter this evident misappropriation and mismanagement of funds. Sibongile Mngoma (President of Im4theArts) has been at the forefront of several initiatives over the past year to hold government to account, and to find support for the entire cultural and creative sector. However, the creatives all came to the sit-in as individuals from different backgrounds. They do not represent any organization, federation, union, or political party. Their main aim is to speak in one voice and get the best results for all creatives. As such, they have organised themselves under the banner Creative Survivor SA.
There has been wide-ranging solidarity support for their efforts from a number of South African organisations, including of course, Im4theArts. In addition, SAUCCIF, ASSITEJ SA, Drama for Life, Forgotten Angle Theatre Company, the Afrikaans festivals network, and individuals such as world renowned choreographer, Gregory Maqoma and theatre veteran, Sello Maake ka Ncube have all offered their support in practical ways, as well as through public statements. Respected arts administrator, Ismail Mahomed recently dedicated his award to the protestors after his trip to the French Embassy to receive the Chevalier de L’Ordre national du merite. There has also been an unprecedented amount of interviews, media reporting and articles about this dire state of affairs.
Last week the National Arts Festival took the NAC to court for illegally changing their contract and won the case, forcing the NAC to pay them in full and setting a legal precedent. There are also other court actions being taken on behalf of beneficiaries, whose outcomes are pending. One of these is being led by ASSITEJ SA to the Cape High Court, and various other organisations will be able to be attached to this action.
Last week, the artists sitting-in at the NAC offices were ordered to leave with no answers provided and no requested mediation between parties granted. A court order was granted on Friday 9th April, ordering them to leave the premises.
The artists have decided to remain in place at this time, and the National Arts Council will need to decide whether or not to enforce the court order.
We need you to add your voice to the outrage, and ensure that artists and creative practitioners are heard and that the National Arts Council debacle is resolved.
6 ways you can support the NAC sit-in
- Provide social media support. Make your voice heard.When posting in support of the sit-in, we ask that you use the following handles to amplify your message: @nacsouthafrica, @SportsArtsCultur @PresidencyZA and #Im4theArts #ArtistsLivesMatter #CreativeSurvivorSA
- Provide on-the-ground support: The Artists sitting in at the National Arts Council need hot meals cooked for them, on a daily basis. If you are able to help in this regard, contact Bridget on 083 263 6991.
- Donate to support the artists’ needs for food, care packs and data: You can make a donation through Bridget van Oerle, Tymebank, 51021108026
- Be artful! Come down to the NAC precinct or create an event in your own community to support the Artists Sit-in. Photograph it, use social media to share it and otherwise show your support
- Share our blog post at https://www.im4thearts.org.za/nac-sit-in-media-coverage/ with your networks;
- Send a Letter of Support via Im4theArts by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.