Minister spoils 2010 party

Prominent figures in the South African arts field are questioning what has happened to R150-million promised by the Arts and Culture Department for projects related to the Fifa World Cup.

At a public meeting at Johannesburg’s Bassline club early last year, attended by former arts minister Pallo Jordan, the ministry pledged the sum of R150-million for tournament-related projects. However, arts and culture practitioners said that with just four months to go before the World Cup kicks off, none of the funding had materialised.

The Mail & Guardian has also established that:

  • The arts and culture director-general, Themba Wakashe, has instituted an internal forensic investigation in the department. Asked if two officials had been suspended in connection with the alleged disappearance of money from the World Cup budget, the department of arts and culture’s (DAC) communications chief, Lisa Combrinck, refused to provide further information.
  • “Should any wrongdoing come to light from the forensic investigation implicating any department official, the department will take the necessary disciplinary action,” Combrinck said.

  • The 2010 World Cup task team, set up to assess proposals from arts and culture practitioners for World Cup projects, is due to be dissolved at the end of January.
  • Combrinck said this was because a full-time departmental official, Duduzile Mazibuko, had been appointed to take over the team’s duties. “The expertise of the task team has been valuable, but at this stage officials can implement what needs to be done,” she said.

    But a team member said the dissolution of the body was “a mystery”, as it had not completed its work. No single official could replace the team’s expertise, the source added.

    Set up in August 2009 because the department lacked capacity, the team comprises Professor Pitika Ntuli as convenor, musicians Sibongile Khumalo and Yvonne Chaka Chaka, advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa, chief executive of the National Film and Video Foundation Eddie Mbalo, South African State Theatre artistic director Aubrey Sekhabi and Annabell Lebethe, chief executive of the National Arts Council.

    It received at least 160 World Cup-related funding applications from organisations and events as diverse as the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, the Market Theatre in Johannesburg and a Free State-based war museum.

    Combrinck also said because “monies promised to [artists] were not forthcoming”—she offered no explanation for this—Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana had approached the National Lottery for funding.

    A number of major groups that are depending on finance from the department to realise their 2010 plans complained this week that they had received no funding guarantees.

    They said that as a result of the dissolution of the task team, whose work had appeared to be gaining momentum, they might have to downscale or even cancel programmes that could provide an important local arts showcase for World Cup visitors.

    The most important of these is the 15-day National Arts Festival, which will coincide with the Fifa tournament in June. The annual festival in Grahamstown has been extended from its normal 10 days to run from June 20 to July 4.

    Festival chief executive Tony Lankester said: “We have had no official feedback at all. We asked for a one-off grant that would enable us to run a longer festival, to put in place other heritage and legacy projects in the Eastern Cape and to do a lot more aggressive marketing to international audiences.

    “With every day that passes, we are missing out on the potential of harnessing the World Cup economic boom for the province.”

    Market Theatre artistic director Malcolm Purkey said that the venue had decided to present a South African theatre festival at the Grahamstown event, performing classics by Athol Fugard, Barney Simon, Mbongeni Ngema and John Kani, as well as more recent work by the likes of James Ngcobo.

    Purkey said that the 10 productions were “utterly dependent on money from the 2010 project”.

    But “even if there is goodwill and a desire to get money out, it is going to be too late. Big, important projects are threatened.

    “How do they expect us to do our work when there is always stalling, misunderstanding and secrets? There will be no cultural programme of significance that genuinely represents our history and our past unless they unlock the funds.”

    Asked to detail 2010 project manager Mazibuko’s new responsibilities, Combrinck said she would promote legacy and empowerment projects and a showcase of art and culture from the African continent in cities and at community centres, oversee the refurbishment of Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow and promote various World Cup-related events and national symbols.

    Task team members also complained that although the Treasury had earmarked the necessary funding, they were unable to establish from the department how much money was available. “All we knew is that auditors are examining the issue and that money would be sourced from somewhere—that is why we got into a discussion about the Lottery augmenting whatever is outstanding,” a team member said.

    Ntuli, chairperson of the task team, said he was taken by surprise by the letter from Xingwana dissolving the task team, which he received on Monday. “I worked with a fantastic group of experts,” he said. “There was no warning; it just happened—and philosophically we say: ‘The minister wanted us, now the minister doesn’t want us.’”

    Xingwana sent a second letter to task team members on Tuesday assuring them that “there is a strong probability that your expertise regarding the event will be required again in the future”.

     
    Matthew Krouse

    Matthew Krouse

    Matthew Krouse is the arts editor of the Mail & Guardian, a position he has held since 1999. He has edited two anthologies: Positions (Steidl, Jacana Media 2010) about artists engaging with politics in South Africa today, and The Invisible Ghetto (GMP, 1994) a compilation of creative writing about gender. His essays have appeared in collected works about arts and culture here and abroad. He has worked in the theatre for over a decade as an actor, writer and senior publicist at the Market Theatre. Read more from Matthew Krouse

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