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Musicians’ war over art department’s R15m in grant money

2019-05-15 11:45

Veteran pop star Mercy Pakela is among a number of musicians accusing the Cultural & Creative Industries Federation of SA of “mishandling” a R15 million grant allocated to it by the arts and culture department.

Pakela’s allegations are corroborated by two other artists and all claim that since 2015 the federation had received R5 million a year from the department, but there was little to show for it.

They also questioned why the national conference of the organisation, headed by actor Tony Kgoroge, did not take place in March as the department of arts and culture announced earlier this year.

However, the federation’s former deputy president, Papa Penny, who resigned in February, denied all allegations that the organisation abused any of its grant allocation.

He told City Press that, instead, he feels like he wasted his time serving in an organisation where he was not appreciated by the artists. “Which money did we mishandle while the federation didn’t have funds? I was getting a salary of only R15 000 a month, when I was a deputy president.”

Penny said the artists had been fighting among themselves since the federation’s board was elected in Mangaung in 2015. “The same artists who are fighting to sit on the federation’s board have no idea that there were not enough funds to sustain the organisation.”

Which money did we mishandle while the federation didn’t have funds? I was getting a salary of only R15 000 a month, when I was a deputy president.

He said it was “sad” that some artists seemed to think that when you are nominated to sit on a board, you automatically become a millionaire. Penny said that during his tenure, the board did well to build the organisation in all provinces, organising the artists into categories, including musicians, performance and celebration, visual arts and crafts, and language and publishing.

But not everyone agrees with him.

Kwaito star-turned-businessperson Eugene Mthethwa, who was part of the federation when it first began, agreed that the organisation was not doing its job of organising artists, adding that there was no evidence of proper financial reporting or accounting for how the R15 million was used.

The federation confirmed it received a R15 million grant from the arts and culture department but strongly denied the funds were mismanaged, saying: “As per the contract between the arts and culture department and the federation, the audited reports have been handed over to the department.”

The federation said the first R5 million tranche was used to cover old debts and hold an elective conference in Mangaung.

It said its last tranche of R5 million received in 2016/17 “was also allocated, but both allocations were based after the submission of a project plan”.

However, the organisation failed to provide specifics despite two weeks of questions from City Press.

Asked which artists benefited from the R15 million grant, the federation said: “The funds were used to run the administration, board meetings, organising the sectors according to the key performance areas submitted and approved by the department.”

Responding to allegations that since the new board took over in 2014 the federation had not conducted a single annual general meeting (AGM), the organisation said it had scheduled one in July last year but the department “received a letter from the SA Arts & Culture Youth Forum to stop the AGM”.

The funds were used to run the administration, board meetings, organising the sectors according to the key performance areas submitted and approved by the department.

“It was alleged in the letter that we were going to hold an AGM of a selected few people and friends,” the federation said. Not one AGM has been held since.

Former 999 music manager and businessperson Brian Mokoena blamed Sibongile Besani, chief of staff of Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, for stalling the process and delaying the conference.

However, Besani said it was unfair that people were dragging his name into the mess.

“I have done my job to make sure all the meetings from all the 52 districts were held. It was not an easy process, but we managed to achieve the first step,” Besani said.

“We must remember before the national conference that they first had to attend to meetings in 52 districts, then all the provinces, before the national conference takes place.

“Most importantly, the budget for the national conference hasn’t been approved by the department of arts and culture, hence the delay,” Besani said.

The federation said the department was leading the conference preparation.

“The objective was to appoint delegates to the provincial summits, which would pave the way to the elective conference.

“We were then advised by the department to put the processes on hold partly because of the elections,” it said.


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July 14 2019