Mkhwebane to mediate in NAC, artists row over COVID relief funds

The council and the Department of Arts and Culture have been at the centre of the debacle after funds from a R300 million stimulus programme, meant to assist creatives to make ends meet during the pandemic, weren’t paid.

Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: @PublicProtector/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - The Office of Public Protector on Wednesday said it would mediate in the two-month long dispute between members of the arts sector and the National Arts Council (NAC).

The council and the Department of Arts and Culture have been at the centre of the debacle after funds from a R300 million stimulus programme, meant to assist creatives to make ends meet during the pandemic, weren’t paid.

Artists have been holding a sit-in at the NAC offices in Johannesburg since the beginning of March, demanding to know where the money is and asking that the department make its list of beneficiaries public.

A High Court ruling earlier this month to evict the protesters was issued but the artists have been defiant, saying they were going nowhere.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said the artists, allege among other things, that the NAC’s distribution of the presidential employment stimulus programme funds was fraught with governance failures, lacked transparency and that the entity had unduly delayed payments to deserving projects.

READ: Artists say NAC eviction letter won’t stop them from fighting for their rights

Mkhwebane said the governance lapsed including conflict of interest concerning some members of the council would have to be the subject of an investigation.

“On issues of the monies which might have been misappropriated, that will be the part that’s we’ll have to check. If there’s monies which was paid, who was paid, how much was paid and what process was followed because that needs to be looked into.”

The eviction order against the group of creatives is yet to be enforced.

WATCH: NAC funding scandal: ‘I can’t educate my son and others have lost their homes’

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