Filmmakers, artists battling to make ends meet during lockdown want to return to work

Nathi Mthethwa.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa –  Filmmakers and artists are not happy that the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture is not engaging the public broadcaster about resuming full operations.

A Covid-19 relief fund worth R150 million in the sports, arts and cultural sector was set up, to give artists and athletes a cushion during the hard lockdown.

However, Minister Nathi Mthethwa conceded that a lot of applications were deemed unsuccessful due to various reasons.

The minister recently pleaded for local content, stating that it will earn artists a living during this pandemic.

Mthethwa vowed to engage the SABC with then acting Communications Minister Jackson Mthembu.

Creatives in the arts industry have since held on to Mthethwa’s commitment as they scramble to make ends meet under level 3 lockdown regulations.

Auzweke Film and TV owner Thapelo Khumalo narrated how the minister got their hopes up when making the announcement.

“It was pleasing to hear the minister speak like that. Knowing that our leader understands our struggle, especially with the public broadcaster, and we were definitely hoping for something, because all we want as artists is an opportunity and the rest will follow,” he said.

“I don’t wish to go into details on how the Covid-19 relief fund was distributed, because a lot of us never got it. All we are pleading for is the resumption of theatres, with the help of the government and our people will also adhere to regulations set out.”

Mthethwa’s spokesperson Masechaba Khumalo said Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams would now be part of the meeting.

Khumalo would not clarify as to why the meeting has been delayed.

“The minister has not yet met the public broadcaster, and when that happens it will be together with Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams, whose department is the one responsible for the broadcaster.”

HB Imaging co-owner Herlott Ramurembiwa said his production company has been waiting for the relief fund as it has submitted all the required documentation.

“I really don’t know what’s delaying that fund, but we will keep waiting. Overall production has been bad, we still owe our freelancers money.

“It’s really disturbing that there is no direction for us in this industry from the government.”

SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo maintained that as a public service broadcaster, the SABC is legally obliged to comply with various statutes and regulations governing its operations.

“This includes meeting specific local quotas set for the delivery of local content by the regulatory authority, the Independent Communications Authority of SA, for its sound and television broadcasting services.

“For the 2019/20 financial year, the SABC achieved and in most instances exceeded the set quotas,” she said.

The DA has also called on Mthethwa to start exploring other avenues which will be beneficial to creatives.

DA arts spokesperson Veronica van Dyk said: “We will remind the minister that most South African artists were excluded from his department’s Covid-19 relief funding, due largely to its ill-conceived application process and his refusal to reopen the application process.”


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