Heated confrontation between artists and police at Department of Sport, Arts and Culture

Arts activist left without her top during the fracas, protesting the mishandling of Covid-arts funds meant for artists

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

A heated confrontation ensued on Tuesday, November 2, 2021, between the police, security guards and the Metro Police and protesting artists lead by arts activist Sibongile Mngoma in Pretoria. The artists protested making a raft of demands from the DSAC in light of difficulties the artists are facing as a result of the several lockdowns that has almost decimated the creative and cultural industries as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

In the pandemonium that broke out outside DSAC offices in Pretoria, and which was broadcast live on facebook by the arts organisatuion Im4theArts, Mngoma was left topless in what appeared like her top was ripped off as two policewomen pulled her away the parking lot exit of the DSDAC building where she was standing protesting.

Mngoma was forcibly removed by police reportedly to allow officials cars in and out of the building. However the soprano would have non of it as she is seen and heard shouting that she was being violated when in fact she was involved in a peaceful protest demanding accountability from the officials over Covid-19 maladministration.

Tuesday’s protest is as a result of a meeting originally scheduled to take place between DSAC official led by the department’s Director General Vusimuzi Mkhize and Mngoma and her delegation.

The DSAC is understood to have postponed the meeting on the “11th hour” on Sunday.

The doomed meeting was agreed to between the protesting artists and Mkhize on October 22, 2021 when the artists staged their second protest at DSAC this year, complaining about a whole range of issues, pertaining to how the Department and its agencies, such as the National Arts Council, have handled the assistance advanced to the creative sector as a government response to the plight of the artists during Covid-19.

In their latest protest the artists that went to Pretoria are demanding that Mthethwa, Mkhize and other top officials in the department resign from their job, the forensic report that was commissioned by authorities and found massive wrong doing at the NAC  be made public as only a summary of it was released to the media by government, sparking protest that this amounts to a cover up of the shenanigans that has seen the NAC make a mess of distributing funds, among other demands..

Sibongile Mngoma stripped topless

What has made the protesting artists who originally occupied the offices of the NAC for 60 days this year over unhappiness with how the NAC handled the distribution of a Covid fund dubbed Presidential Economic Stimulus Package(PESAP)  is the fact that DSAC has postponed on several occasions to announce the results of artists’ application to Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE), a DSAC annual allocation of funds that funds projects by artists. This fund is in addition to the PESP that Treasury made available to the creative sector to restart economic activities after the sector was left badly bruised by the impact of Covid-19.

What is clear in this continuous tussle between the artists and the DSAC over Covid arts money is the fact that the artists themselves are divided as there are those who are co-operating and are often regularly consultant by DSAC, and this group belongs to a DSAC sponsored federation called the Creative Industry Federation of South Africa (CIFSA) on one hand, and on the other those belonging to the South African United Creative and Cultural Industries Federation (SAUCIF). The later was formed by a number of arts organisations at the height of arts activism during the hard lockdown of 202/2021. Mngoma is the President of SUACCIF as well as President of its affiliate organisation Im4theArts, which has over 1000 members and close to 30 000 facebook members, making it one of the most influential arts organisations formed during the height of Covid-19 lockdown.

Between the two federations there exists a lot of distrust when it comes to their intentions and motives in their individual engagement with DSAC over artists’ representation. In fact there is no love lost between the two organisations both of which lay claim to be representing the creative and cultural sectors in the country.

In its latest update about the progress of the adjudication, DSAC on Monday, November 1, released a media statement stating that the adjudication process had been fast tracked and has been completed.

However this failed to persuade the artists from protesting on Tuesday, demanding that the DSAC must respond to a raft of their demands they made at their last meeting, practically rejecting the last minute postponement of the meeting as communicated to the artists by DSAC on Monday, October 1, 2021.

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