Some artists left out of COVID-19 relief fund

SABC News Nathi Mthethwa - Some artists left out of COVID-19 relief fund

In March, Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced an R150 million relief fund to help ease the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis on the livelihood of those in the sporting and cultural sectors.

However, some in the creative and cultural sector might miss out on the funds simply because they don’t have internet access. This is the opinion of those who have applied and say the process is flawed.

Production manager and coordinator for Olive Tree theatre Selaelo Maraka says her team was due to perform abroad and had to make cancellations at the last minute.

“We were invited by Spazio Teatro No’hma in Milan Italy to showcase the play “Mojaji” which was written by Ntshieng Mogoro – to feature in the 11th edition of the International Prize “iL Teatro Nudo” Teresa Pomodoro Award.”

“The cancellation of the shows has been devastating. The tap was closed abruptly. If we don’t perform. We don’t earn,” she adds.

Maraka says that the process involves submitting proposals outlining the entire production and the impact of the cancellation which has been done.

“The applications closed on the 4th and 6th of April so we are waiting for the response from the department. There hasn’t been any communication from the department whether to acknowledge receipt of proposal, application or an indication of where we are in the process,” Maraka adds.

The department emphasized that the fund was set up to assist all athletes and arts practitioners, based on a set of criteria defined for each of the two sectors. Over 6 000 applications have been made from artists who seek relief.

According to jazz musician and art activist Naledi ya Tshwane, the criteria did not include everyone that was impacted by the lockdown.

In the video below Minister Mthethwa discusses the COVID-19 Relief Fund:

The South African Music Industry Council (SAMIC ) says they understand the anger and frustration from the industry. However, SAMIC spokesperson, Tebogo Sithathu says not all proposals put on the table will be adopted and implemented.

“The COVID-19 has really dealt a huge blow to the creative industry. We strive on events. Because we are all on lockdown, they cannot make an income. They cannot make a living. With the relief fund of R150 million, it’s not going to solve all problems, however, it’s a good start.”

“The private sector in the music industry should match the government. We want all the people that make money off our music, to also come to the party. The criteria was very clear, however for rural artists, and this also happens in townships and informal settlements, if you are relying on an internet cafe and it is closed due to the lockdown, it means those guys were shut out of the process automatically. The applications can only be done online,” adds Sithathu.

The Department of Sports, Art and Culture was not available for a telephonic interview. However, in a statement, the department says some of the applications had nothing to do with the COVID-19 relief fund.

It says some were general enquiries and others were proposals for non-related projects. The department says an independent panel has been appointed and the adjudicators will provide a report to the minister.

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