NAC after receiving “baptism of fire “over Presidential stimulus funds finally pays artists

All qualifying applicants, including the 761 who were initially left in limbo will now be paid, starting immediately.

 By Edward Tsumele

It looks like the saga of artists who have applied to the National Arts for the Presidential Stimulus Package funds and whose applications have been approved, but have not yet received either approval letters, payments or contracts has been finally resolved.

At a media conference held virtually yesterday by the NAC Board and management of the besieged arts agency, NAC Board member and well known music producer and record label owner Dr Sipho Sithole admitted that mistakes were made in the initial adjudication of applications resulting in some qualifying artists being left out, and yet in some cases other qualifying artist being granted more amounts than they had applied for.

The newly appointed council, which began its term in January long after the adjudication process was done by the out- going council, had to step in, instructing management to stop the process of paying out the funds to those that had been granted until matters were resolved . This decision was reached to accommodate the artists that qualified and yet were not sent letters of grants as the funds were already “over- subscribed”. These qualifying artists number 761 creatives .

Dr Sipho Sithole

“We then had to make a decision as to whether we give these few artists that had been given grant letters huge amounts of money and excluded the other 761 that qualified and yet the money was exhausted. We then made a decision as a council to say we would rather reduce the amounts that were granted to the other artists and give all qualifying artists the funds, accommodating the 761 as well. We used the threshold of each job opportunity created, which was initial at R25 000 for each job, reducing it to R10895, and this means we created 21 000 jobs instead of the initial 14 000 jobs,” Sithole said.

Rosemary Mangope. Pic Martin Rhodes© Martin Rhodes

Answering a CITYLIFE/ARTS’ question, Rosemary Mangope, Chief Executive Officer of the NAC said that new letters of grant will be sent to those of the 761 artists as well as payment disbursed immediately to those that had already signed the contracts.

“Council has determined that payments have to commence immediately and everyday the NAC will give out a report as to how many people have been paid and the jobs created. The process of payment will happen in batches  everyday and therefore, it is difficult to say when qualifying  people that have been granted and are compliant will start receiving the money. However that process should take five days,starting from today,” she said.

Going forward, Sithole said that the new council “which had received a baptism of fire “ over the PESP process,  will have regular communications with the media and the arts community to give the public an update surrounding future calls for applications for funding at the agency.

Yesterday’s media  briefing was preceded by  a heated  Zoom meeting with the enraged arts sector yesterday, the NAC admitted that mistakes had been made with regards to the PESPs application process and as a result delays in paying approved artists were experienced.

At that meeting member of the newly installed council Dr. Sithole was at some stage during the heated meeting, forced by President of South African United Creative and Cultural Federation of (SAUCCIF)  Sibongile Mngoma to apologise for seemingly suggesting that the Council was ready to “meet artists in court” who may be dissatisfied by the NAC Council’s decision to revise the maximum threshold for the Second Stream, and those who may have been granted more amounts than they had applied for.

Mngoma accepted the aopology and the meeting proceeded with some artists suggesting that they were disappointed by the NAC’s decision to renege on the contracts it had already signed with some artists for the original amounts granted before the latest council decision to revise the amounts was reached by the Council Board. Sithole however remained adamant that the decision was orally just and fair as it meant that  everyone who qualified at least got something at the end of the day, and 7000 more jobs were created, especially in the face of the latest unemployment figures indicating that 32.5% unemployment.

It will however be interesting to see how that issue will play out in the coming weeks when some artist that have already received the grant letters will be contacted to sign new contracts with revised reduced amounts.

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