Pretoria - Limpopo Sports, Arts and Culture MEC Nakedi Kekana has been accused of abandoning an arts group alleged to have been sponsored by her department.
The cast of Pienaars, the musical from Limpopo, had to spend the night outside the State Theatre in Pretoria on Monday night after they found out their accommodation had allegedly not been secured by her department.
An angry cast member, Jimmy Mohlala, took to social media on Monday alleging that Kekana and her chief director for arts, Vero Mokgonyana, had ignored their phone calls when they tried to inquire about a place to sleep for the night.
He further claimed it had been the department’s responsibility to see to it that the group was safe and accommodated during their seven-day stay in Gauteng because Kekana had contracted them to perform at the State Theatre.
The post on social media read: “We are the cast of Pienaars the musical from Limpopo. We have been contracted to perform at the State Theatre from October 9 to 15.
“We approached the Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture after MEC Nakedi Kekana adopted us after witnessing our show in Polokwane at the Piet Joubert school of special skills … The department then promised to assist and accommodate our cast of 35 artists.
“To our surprise, we finished our rehearsals late tonight (Monday) and found out there was no accommodation.
“The team is sleeping on the corridors on a cold Pretoria night.
“Now the MEC, the chief director of arts and culture, Vero Mokgonyana, is not taking our calls. If anything happens to us, we call upon the people to know what the department has done to us.”
The post came with pictures of the cast lying on the floors of the State Theatre on Monday night.
However, the department poured cold water on the allegations, saying they were not true but were meant to tarnish Kekana’s name.
Kekana’s spokesperson, Pelane Phakgadi, said in a statement that the team had no prior agreement with the department to procure accommodation for them.
“First, to deal with allegations of a ‘promise’ made by the department in relation to the accommodation is a blatant lie, and safe to say only a request has been made without having been approved.
“The department does not fund artists’ organisations. The Pienaars Theatre is one of the best theatre groups in Limpopo, but not the only one. Over the years, including 2023, the group has been funded by the government to over R1 million. The expectation of funding is for such entities to ultimately rely on themselves for sustainability, while the government looks to develop other groups in the coming years,” he said.
Phakgadi called on the cast to desist from “using the department as a scapegoat for its possible lack of planning”, and in the process putting its own members at risk.
“The said group has reached professional status and proceeds from the State Theatre go directly into their pockets at the conclusion of their play. An organisation at their level could have surely planned around its own operations,” Phakgadi said.
The Pretoria News could not reach anyone from the State Theatre as associate artistic director Mdu Kiu’s phone rang unanswered at the time of publication.