Statement: TADA!, Or When A Sector Goes Unministered

April 11, 2022

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The most recent statement from the Theatre And Dance Alliance:

 

If you are not with us, Minister Mthethwa, you are against us

It is with a renewed sense of shock and dismay that the Theatre and Dance sector receives the news that despite operating in good faith in our communications and relations with government and our respective leadership during the period of the National State of Disaster, we find ourselves abandoned once more. As the Theatre and Dance Alliance (TADA) we are therefore obligated to release this statement on behalf of our organisation and our members to clearly state our position.

Notwithstanding the devastation we have suffered as a direct result of the failure of the government and Department of Sports, Art and Culture to engage us effectively through the COVID pandemic, we find ourselves having moved no further beyond the crisis in which we foundered prior to the onset of the global corona virus disaster.

We cannot continue to accommodate the catastrophic disconnect between government and our community of artists, creatives, support staff and co-workers that constitute the cultural and artistic lifeblood of South Africa. This disconnect is typified by the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture who has clearly demonstrated a lack of care and indeed comprehension of the sector that he is supposed to lead.

We are a sector characterised by creative problem solving, by making the most out of the bare minimum, by creating opportunity from adversity. The South African Theatre and Dance community have proved themselves resilient and responsive in the face of what can only be described as a direct threat to our existence not only as artists, but also as human beings. As a sector, we have tried every available avenue of action in order to have our livelihoods recognised and respected, from public protest to policy proposal. The silence from Minister Mthethwa continues to deafen.

Since our inception in early 2021, we as the Theatre And Dance Alliance have worked tirelessly on behalf of our sector at producing objective, empirical and legislatively sound proposals for working together with government on creating the means to operate safely and securely at an economically viable level, to sustain ourselves, put simply: to survive. The Open Theatres Safely campaign (initiated by TADA with the support of privately owned theatres, independent producers, national festivals and the state-owned theatres) was launched in 2021 with its comprehensive and inclusive safety manual indicating clearly both our willingness to adhere to Covid19 regulations and our ability to sustainably self-regulate.

We have participated in industry wide in-depth analysis of the effects of the pandemic, we have produced independent reporting into malfeasance and mismanagement of government support. We have educated and encouraged our members to participate as partners in the ongoing vaccination drive by adopting a pro-vaccination policy and urging our members to get vaccinated in lieu of government’s call for this level of support.

We have represented our members and the broader live performance sector and participated in government structures through NEDLAC and its seat at the table of NATJOINTS and the NCCC. Within these structures we have consistently raised our concerns and contributed to the structuring of a comprehensive response from the greater sporting and live events industry. Despite our positive contributions and willingness to work together on sustainable solutions we remain as marginalised as ever.

In our response to the recently released draft National Theatre and Dance Policy document, we welcomed the critical distinction made in identifying our unique sectoral characteristics that define theatre and dance within the broader creative and cultural industries. Somehow this distinction has escaped the recognition of a government that continues to corral us together with the sporting and stadium-sized events industry, ignoring the reality of a sector driven in no small part by medium scale private venues and production houses.

The one-size fits all approach to the industry sector clearly demonstrates the lack of knowledge and understanding of how the performing arts, and specifically the theatre and dance sector, functions. These independent venues and producers are now expected to shoulder the burden, both financial and logistical, of enacting government’s vaccination mandate policy, while being limited to operating at only 50% capacity. The possibility that this patently ill-conceived mechanism may be enacted into permanent legislation under the proposed amendments to the OHS Act, is cause for great concern. These proposals are not only in clear contravention of both the prevailing science and sustainable development, it ignores any and all proposals made by the Events Industry Alliance (EIA) that TADA is a part of. Once again, we are left to lead ourselves. TADA will engage its full organisational capacity to oppose these proposed amendments.

Despite our commitment to co-operating with government, and our dedicated efforts to provide accurate information and analysis through a detailed industry-supported and detailed plan of action, government still seeks to entrench legal regulations that would permanently cripple the livelihoods of those that have borne the brunt of the extended National State of Disaster. This is just another indication of the lack of care and understanding on the part of our Department of Sports, Arts and Culture.

We remind our government of the ideals of Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stating “Everyone shall have the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts…”. As TADA enters its second year as a prominent alliance of organisations and individuals representing the diversity and depth of our national expression, we remain committed to exposing the lack of credible leadership we continue to suffer under. We will continue to call for a reconsideration of the capacity of those that sit at the highest levels of government in guiding us through this crisis until it is apparent that we are no longer invisible, ignored and abandoned. We call on Minister Mthethwa to fulfill his mandate as the Head of Department to hear us, to see us and not to stand for us, but to stand with us.

 

To sign up as a member of the Theatre And Dance Alliance follow this link. For more information, email info@tada.org.za or go to tada.org.za.

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