CityLife Arts

National Arts Council under spotlight at webinar over the Presidential economic Stimulus Package chaos

By Edward Tsumele

A recent report released by industry body Theatre and Dance Alliance (TADA), and which is damning of the way in which the Presidential Economic Stimulus Package (PESP) was handled by the National Arts Council (NAC), following a forensic investigation the organisation commissioned, will be discussed at a Webinar on Monday, July 12, 2021.

The TADA report was released almost two weeks ago, and so far there has not been an official response to the report, which basically fingers the old and the new Councils of the NAC, and well as apportioning the blame to the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture for the debacle.

Among its recommendation, the report also calls for the dismissal of the new NAC Council, which was appointed in January 2021, by which time the adjudication process of the PESP by the outgoing NAC council was at an advanced stage as the new council inherited the process.

The PESP became a chaotic affair with the NAC battling to pay qualifying artists, reducing amounts that were granted to some artists or their organisations and getting involved in litigation with some arts organizations unhappy with their grants being reduced.

The PESP was advanced by Treasury to the arts community late last year to assist  the creative sector to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on the sector that has seen creatives experience hardships with no work and no income as a result of the lockdowns effected to control the spread of the coronavirus.

To date the NAC has not completed paying the artists their grants, many months after missing several its own deadlines.

The webinar will look at the following broad question: Should NAC Council members – and/or the organisations in which they are involved – be eligible for NAC funding?

One of the findings in TADA’s report into the NAC’s mismanagement of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP) funding is that NAC members – both current members as well as members of the previous Council – benefited illegally from the PESP funds.

When this issue was presented by the media to Tshepo Mashiane, the NAC’s official spokesperson, he said that while some members had benefited from PESP funding, they had not done so as individuals; it was their organisations that had been funded, so no-one had benefited illegally.

What does the National Arts Council Act say? Is it ambivalent in drawing a distinction between individuals who serve on the Council and their organisations? Is it right that organisations whose board members, management of staff serve on the NAC should benefit from NAC funding when organisations who do not have associates on the NAC may be disadvantaged? Are there enough knowledgeable individuals to serve on the NAC who are not attached to organisations or whose organisations do not need NAC funding? If Council members have benefited illegally, what should happen next?

These are some of the questions that will be interrogated during the online webinar.

The panel will include Mark Heywood, Social Justice Activist and editor of Maverick Citizen; Sibongile Mngoma, President of Im4theArts and President of South African United Creative and Cultural Federation (SAUCCIF) and initiator of Abahlali Ba se NAC and Monica Newton, Chief  Executive officer of the National Arts Festival.

The discussion will be conducted on Zoom and those who wish to follow may do so through the watch party to be hosted on TADA’s Facebook page, Monday 12 July, 17:30 to 19:00.

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