Mthethwa apologises for tweet following #NathiMustGO

Mthethwa apologises for tweet following #NathiMustGO

The Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, has apologized and expressed his remorse over a tweet regarding theatre in South Africa.

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This comes after various artists drafted a petition requesting the Minister to resign following what they refer to as his “inability to deal with how Covid-19 has impacted their sector”.

The statement signed by various artists including Gregory Maqoma, Sylvaine Strike, Faniswa Yisa, Ismail Mahomed and Warren Nebe says on January 15, Minister Mthethwa tweeted: “South African theatre is alive and well with performing arts institutions of the department such as @ArtscapeTheatre, @MarketTheatre, @PACOFS3, @DurbanPlayhouse, @statetheatre and @WindybrowTheatr (sic) offering an array of indigenous drama and dance etc.”

The artists leading the petition say this statement is untrue.

“Not only is this tweet patently untrue – these theatres have generally had dark stages for months due to lockdown regulations, with some offering filmed recordings of productions. The tweet (now removed) reflects how ignorant the minister is of the theatre landscape in the country and underscores his lack of understanding of, and empathy with, the enormous losses within the arts sector over the last ten months. We wake up almost daily to reports of artists – including many theatre and dance practitioners - having succumbed to COVID-19,” reads the statement.

The artists, art organisations and individuals have called for the Minister’s head, saying they want to create a better living condition within the sector and South Africa as a whole.

The department says it is currently fast-tracking the third phase of relief funding for the industry to continue efforts to aid the plight of artists affected by the pandemic.

“To date, the Department has implemented the first and second phases of the COVID-19 Relief Fund. Nearly 5, 000 practitioners were recommended for the first phase and over R80 million was paid out to the sector. In the second phase and as of the 14th of December 2020, over R2 million was paid out to practitioners in the sector. 3,658 practitioners benefitted from the Solidarity Fund with a total of nearly R9 million that was paid out. Through DSAC’s partnership with the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD), over R5 Million was paid out to practitioners within the sector, with a further estimated R13 Million to be disbursed by the end of March 2021,” says spokesperson Masechaba Khumalo.

She adds that the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) is also in the process of adjudicating 891 applications that were received by the closing date of 10 December 2020.

Khumalo says the Department is fully cognisant of the fact that there are many others who did not benefit from these programmes, given the Department’s finite budget.

“With that said, we have and will continue to engage national organisations in line with our open-door policy. The Department, alongside the appointed service provider, is also developing the rollout of an implementation plan to provide an Artist Wellness Programme to the sector to deal with the emotional and psychological impact of their challenges and will also provide other enhancement interventions such as personal or business financial management, legal support and lifestyle management.”

According to Khumalo, information on the third phase of the COVID-19 Relief Fund, as well the Artist Wellness Programme, will be issued shortly.



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