This afternoon, 19 April 2021 at 14h00, my team and I as well as our legal team led by Wendel Bloem of Mkhabela Huntley Attorneys met with opera singer Sibongile Mngoma who leads the protesting artists and other creative arts practitioners involved in the peaceful sit-in that began on 3 March 2021 at the National Arts Council (NAC) in Newtown.
Mkhabela Huntley Attorneys are also the same attorneys assisting ActionSA provide legal support in three other matters that include the Lily Mine families seeking justice for the three miners who are trapped inside the container that fell almost 70 metres underground at Lily Mine; and the five families in Mamelodi and Hammanskraal respectively who lost their children after they drowned in two separate incidents.
Following our first meeting with the protesting artists, I wrote an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa urging him to intervene in this matter and ensure that these artists, who are an integral part of our society are given what is due to them as promised.
In the letter, we, on behalf of the affected artists and creative practitioners requested that the President respond to their plight by 31 March 2021 outlining how this issue will be resolved. Failing which, ActionSA would assist the artists to seek legal intervention and force the state to respond to their issues.
Instead, the artists have now been threatened with eviction from the NAC.
Not only that, but there have also been reports of intimidation both to individual artists as well as directed to the protesting group. Their phones have been hacked and the media has seemingly been dissuaded from covering this issue.
It is most troubling that our government can be as unresponsive as it has been to these artists and instead resolved to using state power against them with an aim to silence and force them to end their protest.
I wish to categorically inform our nation that government’s lack of response to Sibongile Mngoma and the other artists have only made them even more resolute to see their mission through. And that we, as ActionSA are fully behind them.
As I stated in my letter to the President, it is most troubling that throughout the country and in various sectors of our society, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented yet another opportunity for thievery and corruption to continue to adversely affect the lives of the hardworking people of our country in the most inhumane ways.
Like all South Africans, artists and creative practitioners alike deserve a better, and a more caring government that treats its people with dignity. It is unfortunate that the one currently in power is not such a government.