The newly formed Theatre and Dance Alliance (TADA) has established a team to investigate the PESP funding debacle that has compromised many in the creative sector, including numerous TADA members. The intention of the investigation is to collect and make public evidence related to the NAC’s management of the PESP funding, and to make recommendations for corrective action from a civil society perspective.
The Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture announced that his department will initiate a forensic investigation into the matter. Based on previous ‘forensic investigations’ commissioned by the DSAC and their questionable outcomes, TADA believes that by putting into the public domain facts and perspectives rooted in experience and evidence, it will help to ensure that those who are responsible for the crisis will be held accountable.
To begin with, and to clarify the focus of the TADA investigation, the team would like to draw the distinctions between the Artists’ Relief Funding and the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP) funding as the aims, beneficiaries, and status of each have caused confusion for some within the arts sector.
Both the Artists’ Relief funding and the PESP funding are related to the impact of COVID-19 on the creative sector, and both are sourced through the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.
The Artists Relief funding consisted of three waves, the first of which came at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The Minister announced an allocation of R150 million to assist artists, athletes and technical personnel who had been affected by the cancellation of projects and events. In devising criteria to allocate up to R20,000 per applicant, the department consulted exclusively with SASCOC, in the case of sports, and CCIFSA, appointed to represent the Arts and Culture sector.
The second wave of relief funding was aimed at individuals and not organisations. It was to cover three months from September to November 2020 with a once-off payment of R6,600, calculated according to the rate structure of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). Those who benefited from the first wave of relief funding were not eligible for second wave relief funding. However, a further tranche of funding was supplemented by an allocation from Department of Small Business Development; this portion was ring-fenced and made available to individuals as well as organisations within the sector.
In February 2021, the Minister announced the third wave of COVID-19 relief funding, available to both individuals and organisations. Those who had benefited from previous waves of relief funding were also eligible for this grant; community arts centres, education and capacity building proposals, proposals targeting marginalised communities were particularly encouraged. Successful applicants were told that they may receive an amount of not less than R10,000.
Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP)
On 15 October 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced to a joint sitting of Parliament, the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme, aimed at supporting the recovery and reconstructing of the economy with a specific focus on job creation. A ‘share’ of the PESP was allocated to the Sports, Arts and Culture Sectors. That same month, the DSAC called for applications, specifically soliciting projects ‘…that demonstrate opportunities to create work ‘ (DSAC emphasis). The National Film and Video Foundation, the National Arts Council and the Sports Trust were the three agencies entrusted by the DSAC to administer the PESP. An amount of R300 million was made available to the NAC to allocate to job-retention and job-creation projects.
TADA PESP Investigation Team
While there are learnings that may be gleaned from the COVID-19 relief funding, it is the PESP Funding managed/administered by the NAC in particular that the TADA team will concentrate on in particular over the next few weeks.
TADA’s PESP Investigation Team comprises Adrian Galley (SAGA Vice-Chairperson), Alexa Strachan (CEO of Aardklop Festival), Isana Maseko (Actor, Director, Lecturer), Karabo Kgokong (Chairperson: Im4theArts), Mpho Molepo (Actor, Community Arts Practitioners Network), Morne Steyn (Lecturer, UCT Centre for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies), Nadia Virasamy (CEO, Moving into Dance), Tammy Ballantyne (Researcher, Arts Administrator), Yvette Hardie (Director, ASSITEJ South Africa) and it is chaired by TADA NSC member, Mike van Graan (Coordinator, STAND Foundation). Ntshadi Mofokeng and Yusrah Bardien, both TADA NSC members, are part of the team and provide secretariat support, along with Jaco van Rensburg, TADA’s Secretary General.
Currently, the team is in the process of collecting information, and anyone is welcome to make relevant information available to the team by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A draft report will be made available by the end of June, with weekly media releases till then on various themes.