In two days time, it will be a month since the sit-in by artists at the National Arts Council (NAC) offices in Newtown started, with artists demanding their share of R300 million the government availed for Covid-19 relief.
The third floor of the NAC offices in Newtown has become home for many artists who are demanding answers to the mismanagement of the Presidential Empowerment Stimulus Programme (PESP).
The artists are adamant they will continue their sit-in until they receive payments due to them. The also want President Cyrile Ramaphosa to address them because they say they have lost faith in Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa.
They claim the NAC initially promised a 72-hour turnaround time on funding applications but to this day many of them haven’t received payments. As a result, some say they have had to sell their muscial equipment to survive and provide for their families.
Some artists are even homeless due to the pandemic and say their only hope is for the NAC to do the right thing and pay what is due to them.
“We stay here and sleep here,” says singer Mercy Pakela.
“This is a movement. We are going nowhere until we achieve what we are here for. None of the promises they have made have been achieved. We are not here to play. They say they are busy with payments and we wait anxiously,” she says.
“If they can’t disburse the funds, we can help them. We are tired of maladministration all the time. We have asked them to give us a list of beneficiaries and the amounts but we are still waiting. We want transparency and need people with a conscience to lead this organisation.”
At the forefront of the sit-in is opera singer Sibongile Mngoma, who sleeps on the floor along with many of the artists while others are painting, drawing and singing – carrying on their love of the arts.
Minister Mthethwa says no money has disappeared, part of it still there, some has been disbursed and continues to be disbursed.
“I have instructed the department to do a deep forensic investigation into this matter so that whoever transgressed in mismanaging funds is brought to book.”
Rapper AKA wondered why as an artist he had never heard of the NAC before.
What is the National Arts Council? … and why have I never heard of it. ???? … Damn.
— AKA (@akaworldwide) March 24, 2021
But someone at National Arts Council board of so-called “independent adjudicators” made sure he got the money. These organizations are run like criminal enterprises https://t.co/Uah5LlMWxk
— Thula Sindi (@thulasindi) March 19, 2021
No one in the National Arts Council can account for the R300 million set aside to help artists during the lockdown period.
Of course, Arthur Mafokate and his multiple companies, children have scored for themselves millions.
Arthur is an ANC member.
Imagine my shock.
— Unathi Kwaza (@Unathi_Kwaza) March 25, 2021
Don’t be fooled by the smiles. My daughter and I went and dropped food supplies for the over 20 artists sitting in at the National Arts Council. They are strong and determined. It still left me sad though. Sad of how corruption is robbing the arts. Artists are struggling. I’m sad pic.twitter.com/ppvJD0d37I
— Kgomotso Moeketsi (@KGMoeketsi) March 28, 2021
PESP has courted controversy, with musician Chicco Twala writing an open letter claiming that king of kwaito Arthur Mafokate benefited from the fund meant for struggling artists. But Mafokate denied the claims, saying he hadn’t received a cent from the NAC and it was pure lies.