Artists take National Arts Council to court over alleged maladministration

The stimulus programme was introduced as a means of creating job opportunities and to revive the battered industry, but applicants claim the majority of the funds were squandered.

FILE: South African artists are seeking legal redress over the presidential employment stimulus package. Picture: Veronica Makhoali/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - Several organisations, companies and individuals in the arts and culture sector are taking legal action against the National Arts Council (NAC) following alleged maladministration of COVID-19 relief funds.

The sector was one of the hardest hit by the lockdown regulations as it was forced to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds in question form part of the presidential employment stimulus package, which saw the arts and culture department receive more than R300 million last year.

‘READ: 'We're tired of being forgotten’ – WC artist perform in protest over NAC funding

Artists said they hadn't received their money and a case has been opened at the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.

South African artists are seeking legal redress over the presidential employment stimulus package.

Following an application process, and having overshot their own deadlines, the National Arts Council is being taken to court over alleged maladministration.

The funds were meant to assist with job retention through a wage subsidy while a second package was aimed at creating jobs through projects.

In addition to not receiving money, some artists said they were also not notified of the status of their funding grants.

The sector has since responded with outrage with a month-long sit-in by frustrated performers at the council offices in Newton, in Johannesburg.

“Arts and culture has been used as a looting ground. So as artists we are tired of such governance of African National Congress,” said one artist.

" Artists have always struggled in this country, this is not new. I think this just highlighted how bad it really is; it’s gotten worse because of lockdown,” said another artist.

Applicants want the court to compel the NAC to immediately pay the balance of the promised funding owed to them.

DISAPPOINTMENT

They said they would not move until their relief money was paid out, despite more delays by the council.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthetwa has promised to investigate.

In the heart of Johannesburg is Newton, a hub for artists, musicians, dancers, singers and poets, but behind the scenes of live of performances and visuals arts on Wednesday, are disappointed and disheartened creatives who feel let down by their government.

READ MORE: Protesting artists claim NAC mismanaging R300m COVID-19 relief fund

Artists have been camping at the NAC headquarters in Johannesburg for a few weeks pleading for answers to the debacle regarding the employment stimulus programme.

“We want a Minister who is an artist, who understands what it is to be an artist and who understands the industry to the core,” one artist remarked.

Another added that: “None of you would have survived the lockdown if it wasn’t for the artists. What were you reading, what were you consuming to keep you sane? That was us!”

Choreographer Owen Lonzer has accused the NAC of not being transparent.

“The system was set up to fail, it was set up for corruption. It would be too easy to hand out lots of money to people who didn’t deserve it. As opposed to distributing it fairly.”

Many artists said they’ve had to sell their belongings to survive, while others are sleeping at the NAC offices after losing their homes.

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