Reeling from successive coronavirus lockdowns, which have adversely impacted the creative industry, artists want President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in government’s bureaucratic red tape, which has made accessing the R150 million Covid-19 relief fund and clarity on the R1.2 billion economic stimulus package, earmarked for sports, arts and culture, difficult.

Having lost patience with Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa and senior civil servants, artists have claimed the department was staffed with individuals who had “no clue about the arts”, leading to today’s march to the Union Buildings – a final push for Ramaphosa to intervene.

Warning of a collapse in the arts, industry leaders yesterday told a media briefing that behind the protest march, were concerns about:

  • Bureaucratic and administrative processes of the Covid-19 Artist Relief Fund, “proven to be impractical and out of touch with the reality”, failing to serve the most vulnerable members of the economy, by favouring “a small privileged portion with better access to data, documentation, technology and information on tax compliance”.
  • Government requesting artists with correct documentation to reapply.
  • The relief fund coordination for theatres and arts organisations being “very scattered, ineffective and based on nonrealistic criteria for application, demonstrating how out of touch the department of sports, arts and culture is, with the reality of our sector”.
  • Closure of state and independent venues, which included theatres, galleries and music halls.
  • Release of artists arrested during a recent Durban protest.
  • No government indication on when the R1.2 billion economic stimulus package earmarked for sports, arts and culture, would be allocated.

Addressing journalists, popular artist and president of Im4theArts Sibongile Mngoma said: “For the past 26 years of democracy, we have dealt with ministers who did not understand the arts industry. If you are not understood by the minister, you escalate your concerns to the president, which is what we are now doing.”

Romeo Ramuada, president of the SA Arts and Culture Youth Forum, said: “If the president does not intervene, the arts industry is facing collapse in South Africa. We have seen more actors being retrenched, their homes and cars being repossessed by banks.”

-The Citizen

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