NAC’s issues with artists could have been avoided had it been transparent from start
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It has been more than 40 days since a group of artists staged a sit-in at the National Arts Council’s (NAC) Joburg headquarters.
At the centre of the dispute is the R300 million Presidential Employment Stimulus package. Artists are demanding answers about a lack of payment from the package.
We welcome the forensic investigation launched recently by Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa to look into the situation.
The artists have been sleeping on chairs, floors and couches at the council’s offices since the start of the sit-in, and have vowed not to move until their demands are addressed.
With the hard lockdown, the arts and culture sector was ravaged by event cancellations.
An SA Cultural Observatory study published late last year found that 90% of the live music industry had lost income due to Covid-19 and 25% of artists indicated that they would not be able to continue with any elements of their business under lockdown.
While in the middle of jostling between the parties, on Friday the South Gauteng High Court granted the NAC a court interdict against the artists. The SA Arts and Culture Youth Forum, Sibongile Mngoma, Romeo Tshililo Ramuada and all artists occupying the NAC offices were respondents in the application brought by the NAC.
In his ruling, Judge J Makume said pending the finalisation of the dispute on the stimulus programme, the respondents should immediately vacate the NAC offices.
While it is understandable for the council to feel aggrieved by the sit-in, which has made it impossible for the day-to-day running of business, we think many of its problems could have been solved had the NAC decided to be transparent with the artists and engaged with them.
We have heard allegations and counter-allegations of the funds having been mismanaged, mis-channelled and over-committed.
Those semantics do not seem to bring solutions to the problem, nor do they help to break the impasse.
We call on the parties to find each other, and for the NAC especially to show humanity and compassion.