30 April marked the end of our freedom month and the 59th day of unprecedented protest in the arts fraternity. Since March 3, Sibongile Mngoma and other creatives (now Abahlali base NAC) initiated a sit-in at NAC seeking answers to the maladministration with regards to the disbursement of PESP funding (view the sit-in timeline here).
On this day, we learned with much relief that Abahlali base NAC would vacate the NAC premises having negotiated the outcome on their own terms, having lodged formal complaints with the Public Protector and the Hawks regarding their grievances. This we learned would need to be responded to within a stipulated time period.
As Im4theArts, we hope that the matter being referred to the Public Protector, will be treated with the urgency it deserves. We are deeply grateful for the support of the legal teams and of all like minded people, including the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts and Culture, working together on the crisis.
We are also grateful for the support the creatives, both locally and internationally, have rendered towards the sit-in. We recall that on 9 April the NAC got an interdict for Abahlali base NAC to be evicted from the building, although this was never effected; we express disgust that such a route was ever considered.
We call on the government, the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture and his department in particular, for accountability, and to embrace Batho Pele principles.
We note that the artists are preparing to leave the building on 1 May, Workers Day, a day in which we celebrate the contribution of all the solidarity efforts of labour movements in the struggle against apartheid and the contribution of workers across the world. We call for the recognition of artists as workers and as contributing tremendously to the social, psychological and economic well-being of our nation. #ArtistsLivesMatter
The end of the Abahlali sit-in also coincides with the commencement of Africa Month and we call on the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture to demonstrate commitment to the African values of Botho, if indeed we are to change the narrative of artists dying as paupers. The AU has declared 2021 the Year of Arts, Culture and Heritage and we call on our government to play an exemplary role. Im4theArts founder and President, Sibongile Mngoma, showed spectacular leadership during a difficult time for the artists and creatives.
We believe this is the beginning of a new era, and call upon all creatives to join Im4theArts, in order to amplify the vision of Sibongile Mngoma and Abahlali, and indeed of all artists and creative practitioners in our country.