DA asks Minister to investigate NAC contract breaks with more than 600 artists

Please find attached soundbite from Veronica van Dyk MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, to ask that he urgently institutes an independent investigation into the National Art Council’s (NAC) announcement that it would only pay artists half of the funds for contracted projects.

Last year, contracts were reportedly signed with 613 artists, of whom many have started with their projects and who have contracted people to work on said projects.

The NAC’s U-turn is a slap in the face of the arts and culture sector that has been brought to its knees. Many people that work in these sectors have to decide to spend what little money they have on either expenses to travel to rehearsals or food for the day. They do not have enough funds to do both. They have lost homes and loved ones to the Covid-19 pandemic, and few have received more than broken promises from government.

This latest transgression to the industry is not just insulting, it also constitutes contract break. The outgoing NAC board, whose term ended at the end of December 2020, knew exactly how much money would be provided by the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP). They decided the terms of the contracts and artists signed those contracts and started their projects in good faith. The new NAC board, whose term started in January this year, can surely not hope to get away with the illegal breaking of these contracts.

One of the NAC board members, Dr. Sipho Sithole, reportedly said that the council knew that artists would be unhappy and that they expect some will try and take the council to court. Is the NAC so casual about legal prosecution because they know that few in the industry can afford lengthy and expensive court action?

The NAC might try to spin this contract break as intent to fund more projects, but the fact of the matter is the council is leaving artists that have found gainful employment from already established projects in the lurch. They are once again allowing artists suffering and stress, after giving them a glimmer of hope.

The NAC’s reputation has been suffering for years, and rightly so. Unfortunately, the council is not just destroying its own legacy; the livelihoods, and by extension the lives of artists are going up in flames as well. And all because of the incompetence and hubris of a few.

Minister Mthethwa’s own hands are dripping with the blood of an entire industry. He can start atoning by ensuring a speedy and independent investigation and ensuring that artists do not get the short end of the stick again.

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