Thembinkosi Ngcobo, eThekwini parks head. Picture: Thokozani Ndlovu/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - Creative arts organisations in KwaZulu-Natal should not rely on government funding to survive.

That was the word from eThekwini head of Parks, Recreation and Culture Thembinkosi Ngcobo this week as many of Durban’s arts organisations face the looming threat of closure because of financial constraints, putting more than 1000 jobs on the line.

Seventeen organisations applied for grants-in-aid funding from the city, but were told towards the end of last year that recommendations for funding allocations were withdrawn because the city had “no clear application process”.

This occurred despite a report with recommendations drawn up by the city’s arts and living culture unit in February last year to allocate funds to the organisations for the next three years.

Since then, it has been an on-going battle for the organisations to gain any clarity or requests for meetings from the city with regard to the funding issue and whether any money will be forthcoming.

But on the sidelines of a community services committee meeting at the city hall on Thursday, Ngcobo told the Independent on Saturday there had been many organisations, both new and established in the creative arts sector, applying to get a slice of the R18million budgeted for grants-in-aid.

“We give funding to organisations on a three-year cycle and it’s not a lifetime commitment. These organisations should not rely on the government for survival,” said Ngcobo, adding that the application process needed to be re-structured and the final decision on funding would be made at “a special meeting next week”.

He said arts organisations around the city needed to find other revenue sources.

Meanwhile, at the opening of the orchestra season on Thursday night, chief executive officer Bongani Tembe of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra told the audience that the orchestra had received R7.3m in funding.

He was not available for comment on Friday.

Ngcobo had also said on Thursday morning that funding for the orchestra was decided by the executive committee and did not fall under his department.

Arts activist Jerry Pooe, head of the Wushwini Pan African Centre which works with artists who live close to Inanda Dam, said they were “struggling to pay salaries”.

“We are in the rural area and feel very strongly that the government talks about rural development, but we are the last ones they are thinking about.”

The board of the KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts (KZNSA), which has been in Durban for more than 100 years supporting emerging and established artists to market their work, said: “Without essential funding for operational overheads and projects, the KZNSA may be forced to close.”

The African Art Centre said if it was “unable to get funding within the next two months, we face the sad reality that we may have to close our doors and about 200 artists and crafters will have to find other sources of income”.

The Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre company also stated it had just enough money left to keep its doors open until the end of next month, while the KZN United Music said it had already been forced to send staff home and suspend classes because its money had run out.

The lack of funding for the local arts community has starkly contrasted against the planned millions of rand to be spent on a recording of struggle songs by former president Jacob Zuma and two statues to be built of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo

eThekwini Municipality did not respond to queries on funding.

Independent On Saturday