The Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts and Culture – and the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture are worried that some artists and athletes based in far-flung rural areas might miss out on the Covid-19 relief fund due to lack of information, or information arriving very late.

The two committees today held a joint virtual meeting with the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and received an update about the Covid-19 relief fund for artists and athletes.

In order to ease the impact of Covid-19, the department made available R150 million to compensate artists and athletes who have lost income due to cancelled events, projects or productions as a result of the national knockdown. That is, only those affected by an event or events cancelled for the period 16 March to end of June 2020.

In a presentation to the committees, the department said financial support was also provided to digital proposals that provide alternatives to conventional presentation platforms.

The Director-General (DG), Mr Vusumuzi Mkhize, said the department created a special email account for its interaction with the sector in its efforts to minimise the impact of Covid-19.

“Part of the interventions included the issuing out a call to the sector to submit applications for relief for cancelled projects and loss of income for practitioners in arts-related activities

“Secondly, this process allowed the department to open up opportunities for the support of new projects that provide digital solutions for the arts, given the temporary ban on mass events.

“This is meant to safeguard livelihoods for people in the creative industries otherwise adversely affected by prohibition on public events,” the DG said.

However, the Chairpersons of the two committees were worries about what they termed “information gaps”, especially in rural areas.

“I am very much concerned about information gaps, especially with athletes and artists in rural areas – looking at websites of many federations there is no information on how to apply for this funding,” said the Mr Elleck Nchabeleng, the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture.

His counterpart from the Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts and Culture, Ms Beauty Dlulane, also appealed to the department to “do all that is possible to reach out to those in rural areas”.

“We have heard that some didn’t have time to submit applications due to information arriving late and lack of digital equipment, please do all that is possible to reach out to artists and athletes in rural areas,” said Ms Dlulane.

The Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, said his department will make sure that whatever resources available was shared equitably amongst athletes and artists.

“We are going to ensure those who desperately need relief are not forgotten on the wayside, because when we interacted with the industry we assured them that we will ensure that the majority of the people who need this assistance do get it,” said the Minister.

Mr Mthethwa also told the committees that provinces have also contributed more than R60 million to the fund, bringing the total relief fund to about R210 million.

Members of Parliament told the department to guard against corruption and greed, such as those who were establishing new projects for the sole purpose of claiming from the relief fund, and double dipping by those who were getting other forms of income during this period.

By Sakhile Mokoena

20 May 2020