An extensive report filed with the Parliamentary Select Committee For Education & Technology, Sports, Arts & Culture on Wednesday, 11 November 2020, about negligence, maladministration and longstanding unresolved crises within the Department Of Sports, Arts & Culture is now being made public after Parliament has failed to respond.
The Theatre Collective is comprised of Petronel Baard (Founder: TEO Theatre Development for Café Theatres), Lara Foot (CEO: Baxter Theatre; Founder: Theatre and Dance Employers’ Association), Daniel Galloway (Former Managing Director: Fugard Theatre), Yvette Hardie (Director: ASSITEJ South Africa), Karabo Kgokong (Independent Theatre Producer, Chairperson: Im4theArts), Ismail Mahomed (Director: Centre for the Creative Arts), Gregory Maqoma (Founder and Executive Director: Vuyani Dance Theatre; Chairperson: STAND Foundation), Mpho J Molepo (Theatre Administrator working in Community Theatre), Mike van Graan (Author and Cultural Activist), Jaco van Rensburg (Executive Producer: VR Theatrical) and Lizani Smith (Director of House of Crew/Lobbyist/Public Affairs.)
The Theatre Collective are now presenting to the public and media this report, including 300-plus pages of substantiating annexures, which has been put to Parliament and which, to date, has received no response. This report, along with a series of funding blunders by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) warrants urgent further investigation and accountability to the sector.
One year into the COVID-19 Pandemic, which has plunged the theatre and dance sector into absolute darkness, tens of thousands of South African theatre-workers are still without any income. The lack of leadership from the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture cast a huge spotlight on a rudderless Department fraught with internal problems, including maladministration, a lack of accountability to the sector, huge financial discrepancies and no clear sustainable strategy to assist the sector in any meaningful way. But the much-needed, ongoing funding efforts, including both the latest Presidential Economic Stimulus Package (PESP, handled by the National Arts Council – an Agency of the DSAC) and Third Wave Relief Funding are fraught with internal errors, miscommunication and huge delays.
The PESP grant process has been riddled by delays in contracting, delays in payments, and admitted errors in grant distribution leading to the possibility that NAC will be reneging on already-signed contracts with practitioners, which would be both illegal and unethical; in addition, internal politics at the NAC have further disrupted the process as evidenced by the recent removal of the CEO, Ms Rosemary Mangope and CFO, Mr. Clifton Changfoot by the newly-appointed Council, from which a leading member has also resigned. Despite the supposed intent to economically stimulate the creative sector, the deep-rooted systemic problems within the DSAC and its supposed ‘arms-length’ funding bodies, are causing huge damage to a sector already on its knees and ‘one of the hardest hit,’ as admitted by government.
The Department has had to endure the disgrace of various marches, sit-ins and campaigns, including the latest #NathiMustGo petition which has currently 2437 signatories. This sector-wide activism has created awareness around the plight of independent contractors which accounts for more than 75% of the sector and who have been unable to apply for UIF from the TERS fund. These actions speak to a Department, led by an incompetent minister, that has failed its stakeholders.
The Theatre Collective, a grouping of concerned sector representatives, addressed the Parliamentary Select Committee on Tuesday, 20 October 2020. An extensive written report, supported by a portfolio of evidence backing all claims and allegations, was filed on Wednesday, 11 November 2020. The report uncovers deeply rooted problems within the Department and demonstrates a clear disconnect between a sector that contributes 1,7% of the GDP and a Department that has become increasingly tarnished by a disillusioned sector. To date, there has been no response from Parliament to this report.
Summary of the report
The report details the neglect and lacklustre approach that was taken by the DSAC to distributing COVID-19 relief funding, detailing systemic problems with both the First and Second Wave of funding made available, but also addresses long-standing issues such as long-overdue outstanding grant payments to various institutions (some as old as 2018), non-responses to critical questions to the Department and general opaqueness with regards to financial spending. The report paints a realistic picture of the state of emergency the sector finds itself in, drawing on letters of support from hundreds of respected industry leaders, educational institutions, dance companies, businesses in the arts and both private and funded theatres who have expressed concerns that tens of thousands of jobs will be lost and could possibly never be recovered if the sector is not supported in a sustainable way by the DSAC through meaningful collaboration with leaders in the sector.
Since November 2020, the situation within the arts has gotten worse despite the attempts from both the DSAC and NAC. Detailed case studies exposing the exploitation of artists in the DSAC’s own Living Legends project, maladministration of grants for major events, a lack of clear and timeous communication and examples of dysfunctionality within the Department clearly demonstrates the lack of due diligence and poor judgement within the Department. An entire chapter is dedicated to how the DSAC frustrates the theatre and dance sector through their inadequate understanding of the sector and how it functions, their unwillingness to meaningfully consult with stakeholders and how the Department does not take reports of corruption seriously.
A summary of the Auditor General’s findings relating to the DSAC 2018/2019 Annual Report, entitled “Irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure” is included as further evidence of the negligent spending in the Department. Throughout the report, meaningful recommendations are made by sector leaders as to how problems could potentially be resolved, or at least, be addressed and not just swept under the carpet. The report culminates with an exhaustive Ten Point Plan of Recommendations by the Theatre Collective to the DSAC. The Report is supported by more than 300 pages of annexures that form the portfolio of evidence to support every single claim in the report.