Arts Minister Nathi Mthethwa . Picture Brenton Geach
Arts Minister Nathi Mthethwa . Picture Brenton Geach

Mthethwa dismisses claims that nothing done for artists as ’propaganda’

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Jul 27, 2021

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SPORT, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has lashed out at opposition parties for suggesting his department did nothing for the artists during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is a fallacy and cheap propaganda that the department is doing nothing for the creatives. We were among the first to provide this relief to the sector,” Mthethwa said.

“We immediately called on the industries, both sport and creatives, and interacted when lockdown started in March. They gave us ideas and it is those ideas which bear the three phases we talk about in funding,” he said.

Mthethwa was responding to accusations and questions from the DA and EFF after his department briefed the MPs on the third phase of relief funding for artists and athletes, who received R10 000.

The MPs heard from deputy director-general Cynthia Khumalo that they have concluded the adjudication of applications for the third phase of relief funding and outstanding payments depended on available funds.

Khumalo said 6 332 artists were approved by adjudicators and 763 applications were declined. A total of 5 100 applications were successfully paid and R51m was paid as at July 22.

Khumalo said 1 103 applications from arts organisations were received and 1 088 were adjudicated.

Out of the 205 Living Legends, 108 applications were processed for payment as at July 22 and 122 were still to be paid.

Khumalo told the MPs that R780 000 was paid to 78 individual sport applications that were approved and 797 applications were declined. Only three of the 153 sport organisations applications were recommended for payment.

EFF MP Ringo Madlingozi said mismanagement played its part in disbursing relief funds in the first and second phases.

“Now the department talks of no money. Artists are still living in distress,” Madlingozi said, adding that the artists’ children were kicked out of school for non-payment of fees.

“They are not looked after properly by the department … This department failed them dismally,” he said.

DA MP Tsepo Mhlongo expressed similar views, saying the department and its entities failed to make sure artists received the relief funds.

He complained that some information related to funding was not contained in the report tabled to the committee and made available when they enquired.

“Why is the department not giving us the full information? Why is it not playing open cards?” Mhlongo asked.

Mthethwa gave statistics showing the number of beneficiaries dating back to the first phase, including the partnership with the Department of Small Business Development involving R159 million and the Presidential Employment Stimulus Package amounting to R665m.

“While we may not have reached everyone, these are warm bodies who benefited out of the government and out of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.”

He said the relief finding was not enough and did not reach everybody as there was no new money that was provided for.

“We will disregard these uninformed statements that the department is uncaring. We are not to worry ourselves with side shows,” the minister said.

The minister said his department has sought to look for non-financial assistance for athletes and artists.

“One of such is a wellness intervention programme which looks at matters you are referring to – assistance of creatives and athletes in legal matters and matters that relate to their well-being.

“That programme was launched in February and we are rolling it. The inter-ministerial committee has a work stream for school fees of children,” he said.

Mthethwa said they were engaging the banking sector and landlords on behalf of artists and athletes.

Echoing the sentiments from ANC MP Albert Seabi that it would be difficult to do more with little, Mthethwa said R10 000 was “something for those who had nothing to put on the table”.

“We are only happy that the people appreciate that, especially those who are beneficiaries. The prophets of doom say that it is nothing,” he said. “This is what we gave artists and athletes in practical terms.”

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