Theatre summit hosts political parties in light of local government elections

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

Municipal elections are on the horizon, and already some among us have suddenly seen in our different localities politicians that we last saw donkey years ago visiting us at public spaces such as tax ranks and parks asking us to consider  voting for their political parties in the upcoming elections. Some have announced launching their manifestos soon, which are sales pitches to the le electorate. And we will certainly hear more from political parties as they suddenly realize that their chances of having a seat in a local lies with the electorate, that they may have neglected since the last elections.

Of course this year the municipal elections are happening under very different circumstances as the country is under the grip of a dangerous virus lingering in the air, making our situation, socially, economically and politically more complex than the situation that prevailed in the previous elections.

Jobs have been lost, the capacity to earn livelihoods for many has been compromised. The economy has been battered as a result of the several lockdowns that have been implemented to minimize the rate of infection by the coronavirus. Jobs  have been lost as some sectors have not been able to operate as a result of the effects of Covid-19 and the lockdowns.

One of the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 restrictions in the country is the creative sector which has seen artists carrying the major brunt of Covid-19 restrictions. Artists for the most part have survived through grants from  government and family members.  As one can imagine, these special grants in the main, have not been able to reach everyone, partly because there is simply not enough for everyone, but also because there has been problems  in the way the grants from government have been administered. For example, there has been delays in paying artists, system hurdles were plenty, and simply poor management of grant administration by those charged with disbursing funds to artists. And to illustrate the chaotic manner in which authorities have responded to the financial challenges facing artists as a result of the Covid-19 induced difficulties,  the National Arts Council (NAC) to date, has not completed the payment of artists from the Presidential Economic Package Fund of R300 million announced since last November 2020, 10 months later. The issue is currently under investigation by the Public Protector and the NAC appointed forensic team. Both investigations are to date have not been released.  A civil society commissioned report  however carried out by Theatre and Dance Alliance (TADA) published in  July  was damning  to both the NAC and the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture  with regards to the way in which grant disbursement for artists was handled.

Meanwhile anger among a big proportion of artists is boiling due to frustration as the sector under the current lockdown level and the Covid-19 situation cannot fully operate.

In other words, artists have not been able to work fully for the past 18 months, and  therefore, are struggling to earn a living and look after their families. It therefore looks like the artists and their circumstances will become a big issue in the upcoming elections as opposition parties are likely to court them and take advantage of  their issues in the power game as a campaigning g issue for the local government elections. Opposition parties are likely to exploit anger and genuine grievances that already exist among artists  as a result of the difficulties the artists find themselves in.

Only last week arts activist and President of two arts organisations formed at the height of Covid-19, Im4theArts and South African United Creative and Cultural Industries Federation (SAUCCIF), Sibobongile Mngoma warned that artists are not going to be passive in the lead up to the local government elections, as on  the facebook page of  Im4the Arts in a post published on Friday, September, 17, 2021,  hinted  that artists were going to disrupt the local government campaigns.

In the meantime a Theatre summit is starting today, September 20, in Stellenbosch will  tomorrow, Tuesday, September  21, 2021, host political parties to the summit to  explain why artists must vote for them during these local government elections. At this special public forum within the summit, political parties will answer the question “Why should artists vote for you?”

The summit is hosted by Sustaining Theatre and Dance (STAND) Foundation in association with Toyota US Woordfees which will be attended by representative arts organisations in Stellenbosch from 20-22 September 2021.  The aim of the Summit is collectively to devise proposals and strategies to rebuild and sustain the creative sector that has been hit hard by COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

“As part of the Summit, political parties have been invited to participate in a public forum on Tuesday 21 September at 19:00 to engage with delegates on the question “Why should artists vote for you?”, with all those who make their livelihoods within this sector asking a similar question in the light of the forthcoming municipal elections.

Cape Talk’s Africa Melane will host the forum with representatives from ActionSA, ANC, DA, EFF and SAFirst Forum. Vytjie Mentor, Western Cape Chairperson of ActionSA will represent the party founded by Herman Mashaba. Leader of the Opposition in the Western Cape Legislature, Cameron Dugmore, will speak for the ANC. The DA will be represented by Councillor Zaid Badroodien, Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member for Community Services and Health, and Federal Youth Chairperson of the DA.. PiabaMadokwe is a Member of Parliament and a member of the EFF’s Central Command Team.

The SAFirst Forum is contesting local government elections for the first time, and will be represented by its founder, Advocate Rod Solomon. The event will be livestreamed on Facebook byToyota US Woordfees, STAND Foundation, Im4theArts and other pages.  Attendance at the event will be held in accordance with COVID-19 regulations and protocols and is aimed primarily at the delegates to the Summit.  There are, however, a few places available for members of the public.  To attend, please contact Jaco van Rensburg at,” STAND Foundation said in a statement release last night.

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