Nathi Mthethwa rubbishes claims that he has not been supporting artists
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The most-anticipated Cabinet reshuffle is done and dusted and, going by the social media reactions, the changes or lack thereof brought more disappointment to Mzansi.
“Artists. We are fu**ed. #CabinetResuffle,” tweeted theatre maker Warren Nebe, shortly after the new Cabinet was announced.
Nebe was at the forefront of the #NathiMustGo campaign, which saw the theatre fraternity starting an online petition for the removal of Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa.
The petition’s initial sponsors were Gregory Maqoma, Sylvaine Strike, Faniswa Yisa, Ismail Mahomed, Warren Nebe, Lesego van Niekerk, Yvette Hardie, Daniel Galloway, Ipeleng Merafe, Sbonakaliso Ndaba, Alex Sutherland, Liam Anthony, Mike van Graan and Jackie Rens.
“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 January 2021.
“Failing this, we call upon President Ramaphosa to replace Mr Mthethwa in February 2021,” read the statement that was issued on social media earlier this year.
In a series of tweets, Nebe slammed Mthethwa for failing to hold his end of the bargain where the Covid-19 relief fund was concerned.
Earlier this week, Ismail Mahomed, the director at Centre For Creative Arts at the University of KZN, took to Facebook expressing his concerns about the lack of support for artists from Mthethwa.
He wrote: “More than a thousand creative and cultural workers have this week posted the following message on their Facebook pages, ‘@PresidencyZA President Ramaphosa, Covid-19 is taking a huge toll on artists and the arts sector.
“As you reconfigure your cabinet, show that you care. Appoint a new minister to work with us to re-imagine our future and our ongoing contribution to the country’s well-being’.”
In his open letter, Mahomed reminded South Africa on how early this year, a group of artists led opera diva Sibongile Mngoma occupied the offices of the National Arts Council for 60 days to “protest against the Minister’s failed oversight of the Department’s funds from the Presidential Economic Stimulus Plan”.
“A few weeks later they (artists) held a full day protest at the offices of the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture. Throughout this period, Minister Nathi Mthethwa has remained either totally aloof or has been putting out tweets that he hoped will change the narrative and present him as being more engaged and involved at the grassroots level.
“Mthethwa will go down as South Africa’s most failed arts minister. Under his watch, several State-funded institutions have been mired in controversy and corruption. Robben Island which is a heritage institution under his watch is under its worst crisis ever."
In the days leading to the Cabinet reshuffle, social media users called for certain ministers to be chopped, and Mthethwa was among those deemed unfit to hold the office.
In the bid to replace Mthethwa, South African Olympic gold medallist Roland Schoeman, this week, penned an open letter to Ramaphosa, offering his services to the country as the new minister of Sport, Arts and Culture.
In his letter, the swimming champion listed his accolades which include qualifications in sports management, psychology, neuro-linguistic programming and life coaching, plus his impressive sporting achievements.
He added that the country needed a sports minister who was interested in “getting young men and women to the point of success on major international platforms”.
On Wednesday, during media mogul Shona Ferguson’s funeral proceedings, Twitter was abuzz with comments about Mthethwa always being at the forefront of condolences when artists die but failing to improve the struggling arts sector.
He was dubbed “Minister of Funerals”, while social media users questioned what the minister does when he is not sending condolences and congratulatory messages.
In his effort to address claims that his department is not doing enough to support the artists, Mthethwa hosted the #ForTheRecord session with the media.
During the virtual session, Mthethwa defended his office while providing the media with supporting documents, to prove that, despite popular belief, he has been offering financial support to thousands of athletes and artists.
Mthethwa said: “We thought it is important to start our inaugural #ForTheRecord conversation with you (media) by focusing on this issue repeatedly raised about the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture’s unresponsiveness to the dire needs of the creative sector.
“It is also underpinned by the fact that we do not want to create an information gap between us as we now move from relief support to recovery of the sector.
“Based on facts that are publicly available and verifiable, we are today stating it unequivocally that statements and allegations suggesting the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture has been unresponsiveness and uncaring are not backed up by fact.
“Yes, we are unable to support each and every role player in the sector in need of assistance. But that is because of limited resources, not because of refusal to support. If anything, monies spent thus far are just under R700 million, that is over half a billion rand.
“This translates into just under 65 000 beneficiaries. By all accounts, this cannot be counted as a small feat. And this is not just about figures but lived experiences of many South Africans.”
According to the minister’s report, some of the individual beneficiaries include PJ Powers, Sello Maake Ka-Ncube, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, Don Laka, Vusi Mahlasela, Shekhinah Thandi Donel, Musa Manzini, Alec Khaoli, Freddy Gwala, Bokani Dyer and Billy Monama.
The minister added that his department will be releasing a complete list of persons and organisations that are beneficiaries of support provided during the Covid-19 period.
The information will be made available on the department’s website at www.dac.gov.za.