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R2m ‘not enough’ for Mandela opera

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Scenes from " Mandela The African Opera" during the final dress rehearsal at the South African State Theatre in Pretoria. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Johannesburg - The over R2 million grant allocated by the National Lotteries Board is too little to cover the costs of a stage play about the life of former president Nelson Mandela, a producer said on Tuesday.

“The amount (R2.86m) is not enough to cover the costs for the show and tours. We had no choice but to postpone it and find other avenues to raise funding,” said producer Unathi Mtirara, who is also Mandela's grandnephew.

The R2.86m was paid out by the NLB on Monday.

The opera play, titled “Madiba: The African Opera”, tells the early life of the anti-apartheid icon who died last year.

Mtirara said the NLB had agreed to grant the R11.8m requested by the producers of the show in partnership with the African Cultural Organisation of SA (Acosa).

“Two weeks ago, we received correspondence from the NLB. They had made a U-turn and said that the original amount would be cut to R2m,” said Mtirara.

“We have a cast of over 200 people. The R2m covers only the cost for the three shows we did at Pretoria's State Theatre, hence the postponement.”

The show was supposed to be moved from Pretoria to Mandela's childhood village and final resting place in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

It was then expected to tour South Africa before heading overseas.

On Monday, NLB spokesman Sershan Naidoo denied that the board had approved R11.8m and then decided to reduce the amount.

“We deal with written contracts and not verbal agreements. The contract signed by the producers and Acosa states clearly that R2.86m was agreed upon and approved.”

Naidoo said the board was not in a position to fund the entire amount because of a limited budget.

Kutlwano Masote, musical director of the production, said the cast and crew would be paid for the three shows that took place in Pretoria.

“We want to thank the cast, crew, and all suppliers who continued to work tirelessly over the weekend with the knowledge that they would only be paid when funding came in,” Masote said.

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