BASA chief executive officer Ashraf Johaardien apologises over radio remarks

By Edward Tsumele

In the past  few weeks, a debate has been raging on in the  creative sector over uncomplimentary remarks Ashraf  Johaardien made during a panel discussion on 702 about  the lockdown and how it is affecting the creative industry.  Johaardien, who is also an artist, was on the Eusebius McKaiser show with other panellists when he made the ‘offending’ remarks about artists’ alleged propensity for  complaining  about their situation without taking action to remedy  it.

The remark by the BASA boss was not taken lightly by an industry that feels the brunt of the lockdown, amidst complaints that it is not getting adequate support from government to mitigate against the effects of the lockdown, that has seen the whole sector disrupted completely. 

During this difficult time, many an artist has been left without income as theatres have closed their doors, music festivals have been either postponed or cancelled altogether, and there is a prevailing sense that other events planned for the rest of the  year  may meet the same fate in the months ahead as  government is unlikely to completely relax all the regulations  in the face of increasing number of people infected by the coronavirus. Most arts related events and businesses rely on human traffic  to sustain themselves. This means that under the current social distancing regulations put in place by government to control   infections from the coronavirus, arts and sportsing events are most probably the most affected sectors in the economy, and yet at the same time, the arts sector feels that they are the most neglected when it comes to funding, even under normal circumstances.

It is in this context that some in the creative sector felt that Johaardien’s remarks were not helpful, a fact that Johaardien himself seems to  acknowledge in his apology through a letter he  wrote addressed to the creative sector after the fall out emanating from the 702 interview.

“Please accept my sincere apologies for the comment I made on Radio 702 as a panelist on the Eusebius McKaiser show. As a fellow artist, I realise that I let you down, and for that I am very sorry too.

During the interview I was asked to reflect on the current situation, and in an unprepared moment, I commented that artists can be inclined to complain without taking action. I foolishly made an inappropriate comment.

While the creativity and agility shown by the creative sector is a testament to the resilience of

artists and creatives, the desperate need faced by all practitioners in the sector right now is self-evident.

I unreservedly apologise for the remark and for any pain or hurt it caused. I promise to do better, be better and continue striving to effect positive change in our industry,” Johaardien says in his letter of apology.

Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) is an organisation that was formed by business leaders and philanthropists, most prominent among them, Mary Slack in the 1990s to encourage the  South African corporate sector to invest in the arts, not as an act of charity, but to gain concrete value for their brands through marketing opportunities for their products and services provided by the arts sector.

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