Artists march to Parliament demanding relief fund payout, reopening of industry
Cape Town – South African cultural and creative industry organisations marched to Parliament on Wednesday over non-payment of the artistic relief fund and demanding the reopening of the entertainment industry.
The organisations say with the closure of state and private venues, the industry was on the brink of further collapse and accused the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture of being out of touch with the reality of the arts sector.
They called for the immediate provisional opening of performance venues up to 70% capacity, an allocation of R600 million to the arts sector and an inter-ministerial task group to be set up to review, propose and implement revised strategies to grow the sector, among others.
Trade Union for Musicians of South Africa’s (TUMSA) Gabi le Roux said they had exhausted every attempt to engage with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and said the executive intervention was the only remedy to rescue the sector from the pending and inevitable collapse.
“Since the commencement of the national lockdown the arts and culture industry has remained shut down and our constituency has been severely affected by loss of income, retrenchments and closing down of institutions and arts organisations.
“The lockdown has served to highlight the underlying issues that have been neglected and allowed to lie dormant for 26 years of our democracy,” he said.
Baxter Theatre artistic director Mdu Kweyama called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently engage with proactive and urgent dialogue with the leaders and employees in the arts sector.
“The minister has failed to support the artists, independent and semi-independent threats and organisations during the time of the pandemic. We demand transparency and clarity on every cent of funding spent and thus far an explanation on how it has been spent.
"The current situation and lack of guidance of the department does not only affect the big theatre houses, but also the work of smaller and important organisations like Zabalaza and Magnet Theatre who work with community groups to explore and grow their talents and bring them to stage opportunities to train and work,” Kweyama said.
Kweyama said they wanted to be allowed to open theatres with social distancing protocols in place, and the number of audience members allowed be determined by a percentage of the theatre seating capacity.
Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the department had acknowledged that the first wave of the Covid-19 relief fund was marred with challenges, mostly related to the lockdown and, after consultation with the sector, opened a second wave.
“The safe reopening of the arts sector, including theatres and arts venues, has always been at the top of the agenda. With the recent directions that were published, the department reopened venues, under strict health protocols, and further created live streaming opportunities for the sector to continue its work.
“Currently, based on consultations with the sector, we have taken their proposals to the government and is favourably looking at the reopening of the economy, including the creative economy,” he said.
Mthethwa said with regards to relief for theatres and arts organisations, the Stimulus Package “Objective Two” will be made available to all formations, to ensure the sustained visibility of the arts industry and will be informed through public calls in due course.