Meanwhile the deadline for concluding projects approaches as the newly installed NAC Council first has to deal with issues pertaining to the application process
By Edward Tsumele
By yesterday it was still unclear as to when the National Art Council and National Film and Video Foundation, the two state agencies appointed to handle these crucial funds, would be able to finally disburse these funds to the creatives whose applications have been successful.
By now artists that have applied and have been successful should have received the Presidential Economic Stimulus Package and should also by now be half way in implementing their projects. That has not yet happened as the majority of the approved artists are yet to receive funds.
The new NAC Board which took over from the previous one, and only started getting involved in the NAC business in January has admitted that there were “issues regarding the PESP application process…and has committed to resolve the matters as speedily as possible, given the needs of this critical sector.”
When it was announced towards the end of last year that the Covid 19-hard hit creative and cultural industry was to be a beneficiary of a Presidential Economic Stimulus Package (PESP), , many artists and others in the creative and cultural industry supply chain were understandably excited. The excitement followed an announcement then that the creative sector was to be the recipient of R440 million for job and stimulating economic activities within the creative sector.
Artists were among the most hard hit by the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic as they could not perform for most of 2020, due to lockdown, and they still have limted opportunities to perform even under lockdown level 3. The announcement and some level of excitement comes in the context of the difficulties besieging the creative and cultural sector as a result of the pandemic.
And yet others were dismayed, and not because they were not grateful for this opportunity, but sceptical that the entities appointed to disburse these funds would rise to the occasion.
The National Arts Council and the National Film and Video Foundation, agencies that operate under the auspices of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, were appointed by their umbrella ministry to receive, vet and approve applications from the creative sector, and then disburse the funds to those successful. This process was to happen in time for the projects to take place within a period of three months, January to March 2021..
But to date, these two agencies, which in recent years, have become notorious for lack of competency to do their job expeditiously, general lack of urgency and have in some cases been rocked by allegations of corruption, seem to be failing the artists again. This is not the first time for the two agencies to be called out for their failure to perform satisfactorily in the interest of the arts, as over the years, their dissatisfactory manner of fulfilling their respective mandates, have become the stuff of legends. This is well recorded on several media platforms and in official investigations that have been instituted over the years.
This time, NAC and NFV are yet to dish out the much needed funds to successful applicants, almost halfway through February. The Presidential Economic Stimulus Package (PESP) covers cultural and creative activities happening from January 2021 to March 2021, after which the creatives should hand over the reports of their completed projects to the relevant agency (NAC and NFVF), as a way of accounting for how the public funds would have been used.
Now there are fears that by the time the two agencies dish out the money to the qualifying creatives, there will not be enough time left to implement the projects and report adequately within the stipulated deadline. This pressure potential opens a room for corruption, the argument goes.
By this time, all things having gone the way the architects of this program, the Presidency, had envisaged, the artists should be half way through the implementation of the projects meant to stimulate economic growth in the sector now that this level of lockdown allows for economic activities to take place. But that is yet to happen because the artists, just like delays they have been subjected to many times over in the past, are still waiting for these two agencies to deliver.
This has prompted the artists once gain to appeal to the Presidency and Treasury to intervene in this clear case of a system failure within the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and its two respective agencies, the NAC and the NFVF.
This state of affairs has forced the South African Union Creative and Cultural Industry Federation, (SAUCCIF), a new federation for the cultural and creative sector, formed by enraged artists during lockdown in 2020, to yesterday call for the Presidency and Treasure to intervene.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa’s priorities in his State Of the Nation Address last week were: We must defeat the coronavirus pandemic, we must accelerate our economic recovery, we must implement economic reforms to create sustainable jobs and drive inclusive growth and we must fight corruption and strengthen the state.
As SAUCCIF, we strongly agree that we must do whatever is in our power to defeat the coronavirus pandemic which has devastated so many, especially those in SA’s Cultural & Creative Industries.
Ramaphosa announced his Presidential Economic Stimulus Package of R500 Billion, with an allocation of R1.2 billion to the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture. That budget was subsequently cut in half, to be re-allocated to Health. We wrote to the National Treasury to express our concerns about this decision; given that the majority of creative and cultural workers had not been able earn a living since lockdown began in March 2020.
The President’s employment stimulus programme (PESP) for the sector was to be disbursed via the National Arts Council (NAC) and the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) as follows: The National Treasurer entrusted R140 million to the NFVF.
Objective 1: Creation of new employment opportunities; R100 million (Stream 1 – 3)
Objective 2: Retention of employment opportunities; R40 million (Stream 4)
The National Arts Council was given R300 Million.
R100 Million for Stream 1: JOB RETENTION and WAGE SUBSIDY
R200 Million for Stream 2: PROJECTS to CREATE NEW JOBS
“The Presidential Employment Stimulus is one of the most significant expansions of public and social employment in South Africa’s history. By the end of January 2021, over 430,000 opportunities have already been supported through the stimulus. A further 180,000 opportunities are currently in the recruitment process. These opportunities are in areas like education, arts and culture, global business services, early childhood development, and small-scale and subsistence farming.”
SAUCCIF has engaged in constructive discussions with both the NAC and NFVF regarding the PESP programs because we are concerned that the Cultural & Creative Industries in South Africa are not part of these numbers. The promise that was made was that this programme will be a 3-months injection, from January – March 2021. This has not materialised for most CCI practitioners and companies in South Africa.
It is now the middle of February and yet many artists do not even know the status of their PESP applications, let alone received the funding that they were promised.
We urge the Presidency and the Treasury to intervene and assist the NAC & NFVF because, clearly, the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture (DSAC) is not doing enough to make the PESP programme work for artists. We hope such an intervention will assist in the following: Accelerate economic recovery in the sector, and assist with economic reforms to create sustainable jobs and drive inclusive growth in our industries. In so doing, they will avoid any room for corruption or any misuse of public funding and speed up the process of getting artists to earn a living,” SAUCCIF said in a statement yesterday.
CITYLIFE/ARTS emailed detailed questions to NAC marketing and communications manager Thola .who in turn referred the publication to a statement released by the NAC Board (Council) earlier on, on February 12, 2021.
”The new18 member Council took tenure at the beginning of January 2021.The Council takes over from the previous Council as the NAC is busy completing the Presidential Employment Stimulus Package (PESP) of R300 million, which commenced in October 2020 as a response to the Covid 19 pandemic.
The Council is cognisant of the urgency to finalise the disbursement of funds to a number of successful applicants who are yet to execute their projects, supporting the retention and creation of work in the sector. The Council notes however that there are issues regarding the PESP application process which have been raised by the industry and concerned individuals; furthermore that these concerns have been raised with the NAC and the Minister of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture.
The Council is thus dealing with these complaints and has committed to resolve the matters as speedily as possible, given the needs of this critical sector. It is Council’s priority to ensure that the PESP funds reach the deserving and successful applicants. The Council also commits to communicating the process forward regularly to the sector on the resolution of these issues and completion of the PESP process,” the statement reads.
CITYLIFE/AERTS’ attempts to reach NFVF communications and marketing manager Nombuso Magubane were unsuccessful yesterday As soon as we reach her and receive the response, we will update the article.