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Nathi Mthethwa issues an apology after the theatre fraternity call for his resignation

Minister Nathi Mthethwa. Picture: Sandile Ndlovu

Minister Nathi Mthethwa. Picture: Sandile Ndlovu

Published Jan 21, 2021

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Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa apologised following a call by theatre practitioners for him to step down as the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture.

In a statement issued by Masechaba Khumalo on behalf of the Minister, Mthethwa expressed his “heartfelt remorse” for his offensive tweet regarding theatre in South Africa.

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This comes after an online petition was initiated by a group of theatre-makers and practitioners started an online petition, calling for Mthethwa’s resignation.

In a series of tweets posted on theatre director Warren Nebe’s Twitter account, theatre-makers painted a painful picture of the struggle of South African artists.

“We, the undersigned artists, arts organisations and individuals who seek to make our living within the theatre sector, and more broadly, within the South African arts ecosystem, hereby call upon Mr Nathi Mthethwa to resign as Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture by 31 Jan 2021,” read the statement shared on Twitter.

Nebe also quoted a tweet that Mthethwa has since deleted, which read: “On Friday 15 January 2021, Minister Mthethwa tweeted “South African theatre is alive and well with performing arts institutions of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture such as @ArtscapeTheatre @MarketTheatre @PACOFS3 @DurbanPlayhouse @statetheatre and @WindybrowTheatre offering an array of indigenous drama and dance etc”.

He added that the tweet contained false information, with Nebe labelling Mthethwa ignorant.

“Not only is this tweet patently untrue – these theatres have generally had dark stages for months due to lockdown regulations, with some offering filmed recordings of productions – the tweet (now removed) reflects how ignorant the minister is of the theatre landscape,” expressed Nebe.

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In the petition, Nebe slammed Mthethwa for failing to hold his end of the bargain where the Covid relief fund was concerned.

“The relief funding made available by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture – while welcomed – came with bureaucratic hoops that excluded many and was simply a drop in the ocean in terms of the needs within the sector, “ said Nebe.

He continued: “Theatre and the arts generally could be in a far better space both during the pandemic and beyond if we had a minister who showed an interest in and who understands the sector, and who engages with it in order to ensure the best interests of its practitioners.

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"We do not call on Nathi Mthethwa to resign or to be replaced simply because of his insensitive tweet, but because the tweet reflects our long experience of the Minister as incompetent, aloof and out of touch."

In response to the Covid relief fund, Mthethwa’s office offered: “Currently, the Department is fast-tracking a third phase of relief funding for the industry - to continue all efforts to aid the plight of artists affected by this pandemic that is taking lives and livelihoods, compromising the dignity of our practitioners and preventing them from fully living out their passion within the arts.”

Read the full statement below.

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Will this statement change the way the theatre fraternity feels about Mthethwa’s call to leave the office?

IOL Entertainment reached out to Nebe for comment but he did not respond by the time of publishing.

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