Our local artists must be spitting mad and cursing government and Minister Nathi Mthethwa right now.
This following the news of the mismanagement of a R300 million financial support scheme for the arts.
Our much-loved stars have mostly been out of work for the past 18 months, with the national lockdown suspending concerts, shows, stage plays and events.
Theatres, restaurants and nightclubs have either shut down completely or have been repurposed.
Entertainers who are used to playing on stage to crowds of people have been stuck at home, their only outlet being virtual shows and TikTok videos – which hardly makes up for the lost income.
Without their bread and butter, artists have had to pack away their mics, instruments and costumes and literally change jobs – or work a side hustle.
A comedian friend of Munier, who struggled to make ends meet during the hard lockdown months, took to selling alcohol when dop sales were banned.
He basically became a smokkie, his kitchen looked like a bar – but at least it put food on the table.
He had applied to the Ministry of Employment and Labour for TERS funding, but because he is self-employed like most other artists, he didn't qualify.
And the R350 SASSA relief of distress grant barely covers his monthly cellphone bill.
So government's Covid-19 regulations effectively rendered our artists unemployed, without any financial assistance.
Except... there was assistance available.
This week the Minister of Arts and Culture revealed that the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (Pesp) to allocate R300 million for support for the arts had been mismanaged and misappropriated.
Last October, the funds had been handed over to the National Arts Council (NAC), who were tasked with disbursing the money.
R85 million was meant to go to job retention and R200 million was earmarked for job creation.
Now, one year later, a forensic investigation has revealed that three former and two current members of the NAC had been cooking the books.
Some beneficiaries of the scheme got more money than they were supposed to, while over 55% of applicants didn't get any.
“We want each and every cent of that R285 million to go back to artists as intended. And we will ensure that it will go to the artists,” Mthethwa said.
He warned: “The matters that involve senior members of the NAC are going to be dealt with by the board.
“The most important thing is that consequence management is going to be felt by those involved."
Strong words or idle threats? Does anyone honestly care?
Corruption and incompetence has become so pervasive that you can almost count on officials to screw up – and get away with it.
At this point, our struggling artists – who have had to skarrel for their livelihood for a year and a half – could care less who is responsible for mismanaging the money.
Some or other skelm in the NAC or in the ministry did it.
No disciplinary process can make up for the hardship the lockdown has brought them.
It’s way too little and way too late.
Our artists won’t forget this, especially not when they go to cast their vote next month.