There is R150 Million Covid-19 Fund for artists: Really?

Creative Industry Federation of South Africa nowhere to be seen!!!

By Edward Tsumele |

Anybody who is even remotely literary in terms of interest would by now be aware of the ongoing debate about whether or not books must be classified essential service in terms of the Disaster Management Act. This Act is the one the government evoked to enforce social distancing in the face of the rampaging coronavirus.

With the country now in Stage 4 of the risks associated with the spread of the virus, voices are starting to emerge calling for certain activities to be allowed. Such voices are muted currently, but will soon be louder as the lack of economic activity is starting to bite along the breadth and length of the country.

Only a few days ago, a campaign started emerging whereby those who run churches are now saying church doors must be opened too, alongside electronic shops, shops selling winter clothes, recycling services, shops selling electronic goods ,and eateries that promise to serve deliveries only, to customers among others. I am sure the list of goods and services that must be allowed will be becoming even longer in the coming weeks, from different sectors of the economy as the situation becomes more desperate.

While such calls are understandable in the context of the -soon to be untenable economic situation for families and businesses, clearly a line has to be drawn somewhere as to what can or cannot realistically be allowed by authorities during this difficult time. This is especially so because the war against the virus has not been won yet, as attested to by the disturbing numbers of people that have tested positive in the past few days. And therefore is reasonable to expect authorities to tread carefully before opening up the economy.

But there is one sector that has been locked out for a while now, a sector that even under normal circumstances is vulnerable. That sector is the arts sector. Under-funded, and under-appreciated in the best of times, but blatantly ignored by corporate and sadly neglected by authorities and seen as a problem sector by authorities when it comes to financial support in the worst of times. For example currently the sector is left in the doldrums. Even the late so called Govid Fund by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, is too late and too little. In fact the Fund was kept so secret that many artists were baffled to learn only this week that there is such a Fund. Clearly this department needs a wake-up call –a serious one at that, because it seems not to know what its clients needs, and If it does, it has no clue how to serve the best interests of its clients. In Business a company that does not know the needs of its clients, let alone how to serve their needs if it does know what its clients needs, would certainly close shop.

In the middle of a crisis such as this one precipitated by Covid-19, it is so strange that the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture did not a long time ago publicly announce the availability of the R150 million of public funds to help the struggling artists. If at all the department did announce the existence of this Fund, such channels it used wre clearly not effective.

It does not help matters in that organizations such as the Creative Industry Federation of South Africa (CIFSA), with a board that strangely gets salaries, is nowhere to be seen during this crisis. Tis organization should be at the fore front of assisting artists to get Covid-19 relief from authorities. This is an organization that gets annual funding from the very same Department that is failing artists in their very hour of need. Have the salaries they get from funds from the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, compromised them to an extent that they can no longer claim to represent the interests of the very same people in whose name they are funded and have been formed?

All over the world, artists and art organizations are getting a better deal from authorities than the long suffering South African arts community. This is the time for South African artists to stand up and voice their complaints loudly about getting a raw deal from a Department whose single existence is based on the idea that it serves its clients, who in this case are the very same artists that have been left in a lurch during this difficult time.

Yes, it is true that not every artist will receive financial support, simply because there is not enough money to cover every one. But the issue is, till to date when it is a few weeks until its two months since the lockdown was announced, not a single artist is able to say I have been assisted from the R150 million so called Covid-19 Fund by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture.

The thing that would make this fun , were it not so serious, is the realisation that If this this pandemic could be contained within two months, its only then that the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture would be in a position to say, they are ready to assist artists with the Covid-19 Funding when the threat could have long been conquered. This is shocking.

However there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for a certain sector of the arts. Book stores have now been allowed to open their doors under the Level 4 relaxation rules. This will assist in saving the potential calamity facing this sector, particularly independent book stores.

Only this week, publisher and author Colleen Higgs raised the alarm about the state of some of the country’s important book stores when she asked for donations on social media for

Independent book Stores. The fact that book stores have now been allowed to operate will go a long way in saving some of them from certain closure. The following are some of the country’s prominent independent book stores:

. Kalk Bay Books, 124 Main Road, Kalk Bay, Cape Town. Make a

donation: write to and ask for banking

details. Alternatively, buy a gift voucher via the same address.

.Love Books, Bamboo Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville,

Johannesburg. Visit Snap It Forward to buy a voucher; redeem it using

SnapScan when the shop re-opens. Alternatively, make a donation or

buy a voucher via email:

. The Book Lounge, 71 Roeland Street, Cape Town. Make a

donation or buy a voucher using PayFast or SnapScan. If you prefer

to pay via EFT, email

. Graffitti Books in Pretoria is also open for online


. Bridge Books, 90 Commissioner Street & 24 Albrecht Street,

Johannesburg. Buy gift cards for books or experiences; get 50% off

their famous “underground booksellers” walking tour; or 50% off their

online isiZulu classes; support The Johannesburg Literary District's

street cleaners; donate from the USA.

.Book Circle Capital, 27 Boxes, Melville, Johannesburg. Buy a

voucher; alternatively, DM them on Twitter, or write to

.Ike;s Books and Collectibles, 48a Florida Road, 1st Floor,

Durban. Write to for information on how you

can help.

.Clarke’s Bookshop, 199 Long Street, Cape Town. Buy a voucher,

which can be redeemed at any time once the lockdown has been lifted.

.David Kruit Books, Fox Street, Maboneng

.David Krut Books, Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood

. Xarra Books in Mid Rand

.. African Flavour Books in the Vaal

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