protestSunday Independent reports that over the past few weeks various artists in the arts and culture sector have staged a sit-in at the National Arts Council (NAC) offices in Newtown, Johannesburg, to protest against corruption and lack of support for artists.

They also raised concerns about how the R300 million fund that was supposed to be distributed equally among artists was instead mismanaged. The cultural and creative industries, also known as the gig economy, have not been working because of Covid-19 lockdown regulations and restrictions because many in this industry rely on bookings for entertainment venues. To relieve the financial burden on entertainers and artists, R300 million was made available. However, there are allegations that the NAC has mismanaged the funds and artists have been demanding answers. Opera singer Sibongile Mngoma, who has been at the forefront of the sit-in, said the process to apply for the relief fund was difficult and that the council was hiding its mismanagement of the funds. “The biggest bone of contention is that the funds were supposed to have been paid by the middle of January but this did not happen so that people could complete their projects by March 31. So far they’ve managed to pay less than 50% of artists. Even with that, they have not paid half of the allocated budget. They are telling us that they’ve paid about 400 people and yet the budget for this PESP (Presidential Empowerment Stimulus Programme) is R300 million and so far what they have been able to say they’ve paid is R57 million. Where is the rest of the money and why isn’t it getting to the artists?” she asked According to the NAC’s Dr Sipho Sithole, the council now has R285 million of which R53.3 million had been paid by 22 March, with 1 215 applicants approved. He said he was confident the council would meet its deadline set for 31 March, if all re-issued contracts have been returned and signed.

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