NAC, artists still at loggerheads

The sit-in at the National Arts Council (NAC) head office, Newtown, by disgruntled performers, musicians and artists, continues until a resolution is found or else “we’re not budging” says the irritated Mngoma.

Over the past few weeks, members of the arts industry have raised concern about how the R300 million fund was, allegedly, being mismanaged.

Talk is certain individuals namely Arthur Mafokate’s companies and associate have benefited greatly and the question is how and why?

Mafokate who is politically connected, has denied any wrong-doing.

This prompted the likes of music king Sello Chicco Twala labelling him a ‘coward’.

“We don’t know what the minister is thinking, that’s if he is thinking about us,” says Mngoma.

“It seems he’s not clued up on the on-goings or he’s playing dumb with our lives. But now we will show the world how the arts practitioners are treated in SA by continuing with sit-in at the NAC until the management adheres to our pleas. Its our money that was allocated to us, we demand it, not asking for it,” continued Mngoma.

Presidential Empowerment Stimulus Programme (PESP) fund was open to all creative and cultural workers on how to keep the sector above water through employment creation and retention of jobs.

The applications process was finalised by December, with an approval of 1 374 successful applicants, which translated to funding that was more than what was available.

“They had approved the applicants, which amounted to R611 million while there was only R300 million in funding available,” said board member and head of communications for the NAC, Dr Sipho Sithole.

He said the council discovered that it had run out of money because there were people who were granted more money than they had requested.

“For instance, a successful applicant who requested R389 000 gets approved for R1.6 million … the list is endless. That over-approval was amounting to R27 million in excess to what people had asked for.”

He added that some companies were approved for more than one project, which also added to the overpayment.

“We needed to fix this by first ensuring every approved applicant received a grant.

“We do this by making sure no one gets more than they requested, and that amount is approved and compliant. Secondly, no one should get more that R2 million based on their application and the number of jobs that will be created from the project.

“Thirdly, no single company should be funded for more than one project. We have also revised the guiding figure from R25 000 to R10 895.”

He said such a decision by the NAC would enable the council to accommodate every approved applicant. The 761 applicants who would have been excluded were now going to be funded along with the 613 who applied by the first closing date.

“All of this meant we needed to withdraw the initial letters of approval to adjust the figures, reissue new letters and re-contract people. That caused a delay, as management could not pay out based on the old approvals.”

He added there were two sides: people who were angry that their contracts had changed, and those who were happy that the council was making sure no one ‘unduly benefits’ while others are left out.

“We are paying people under the new contracts, those that have been adjusted need to return the contracts, so that the NAC can proceed in making payments. Management has promised that every contract that has been returned with the new terms, they will pay within 72 hours.”

Sithole added that no amount of explanation would make people happy.

“No money has been syphoned out of the NAC. Every cent is being accounted for. As of Friday, we have already paid out in excess of R37 million to about 230 beneficiaries. We reissued 1 130 grant letters and began to receive signed grant letters and contracts. That’s why we are now back to making the payments.”

He said the aim was to make sure that by the end of March, all approved beneficiaries would be paid.

Mngoma said she was devastated and failed to understand why it was taking so long to disburse the money that should have already been paid out by now.

NAC has been in the press for all wrong reasons following the suspension at the end of February, of its chief executive and chief finance officer, due to mismanagement of funds.

As for artists they will remain a sore –sight to NAC though, Police were called in, according to Mngoma, who said they’ve damaged nothing.

Image (No laughing matter. NAC board-member and spokesperson Dr Sipho Sithole says every cent being accounted- really Doc?)

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