ActionSA welcomes the reports that the Public Protector is intervening in the ongoing dispute between the National Arts Council (NAC), the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, and local artists regarding the non-payment and alleged looting of COVID-19 relief funding.
ActionSA initially met with artists staging a sit-in at the NAC on 25 March 2021, in response to a request from them. The artists explained that of the R300m that was allocated to the NAC to assist artists impacted by COVID-19, only a small percentage of payments were made, while a substantial number of qualifying recipients are yet to see a cent.
ActionSA subsequently offered the support of our Legal Team at Mkhabela Huntley Attorneys to assist the artists in their bid to compel the NAC to disburse the promised relief.
Following our first meeting with the artists, I also 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. Those pleas fell on deaf ears.
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.
We urge the Public Protector to assist to bring the matter to a close, and ensure that the artists receive the support they were promised.
ActionSA, as well as our Legal Team, will continue to monitor the situation, and stand ready to assist the artists further should the need arise.