On 25 March 2020, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa committed R150 million towards a Relief Fund to assist artists, athletes, technical personnel and its core ecosystem, to soften the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The deadline for applications and submissions was then extended to 6 April and 6,000 applications in total have been received.
Most notably on 21 July, the minister said of the R1-billion relief fund, an allocation of R95 million will be dedicated to the arts and culture sector for loss of income due to the restrictions on economic activity. The question remains though, has anyone in this sector received any funding?
The Citizen spoke to a number of people who are part of this industry to talk about their experiences in applying for the fund:
Record sales are down
Music maestro and living legend DJ Oskido, who is returning to TV with a new series on MTV, said: “It’s very, very tough, we’re going through a lot as an industry. Some artists have gone to the studio to make music cause they spent a lot time at home, which is an upside.
“But when you look at record sales, they went down. Technology and streaming came in and what happened is that 80% of our performance became our earnings and only about 20% off royalties. A huge chunk of our earnings has been lost.”
He added he hasn’t received any relief from government but whatever comes they would appreciate it.
“There’s a lot of artists trying to get relief. Whatever they can assist with is good, half a loaf is better than nothing. We will see what will happen, if anything comes up we would really appreciate it.”
Adding to this sentiment is Daniel Baron, platinum-selling, award-winning singer/songwriter and producer, who says the process is very difficult with many gigs that didn’t essentially have contracts being unaccounted for: “It’s also difficult to quantify gigs that were going to come in as well. That has made filling in the claim form very difficult and, honestly, I decided to rather focus on the work that was coming my way in the form of music production. And I’m thankful that I have my home studio to continue making a living during this time.”
There are just too many hoops to jump through
Award-winning actress Ilse Klink, who works in both theatre and screen added: “There is too much red tape and hoops to jump through in order to access the relief fund. You need to prove that you are unemployed, which is hard to do for people in the arts we don’t get contracts three months before the time; they only come a week to three weeks before work starts.”
Most notably the industries which throw a spotlight to the arts industry and work behind-the-scenes have been hard hit.
Lameez Alexander, freelance event producer and MD of Pulse Event Concepts had this to say: “My business operations have come to a standstill as the events industry is unable to work under the lockdown. We haven’t worked since 15 March. I have applied for relief and have received nothing. The same goes for my industry colleagues. There has not even been acknowledgement of our applications.”
MEDIA ALERT: COVID-19 RELIEF FUND UPDATE FROM DSAC pic.twitter.com/IgWa9HdI2o
— Department of Arts & Culture (@ArtsCultureSA) May 26, 2020
“I had to risk my safety and fly to Cape Town for work because I don’t have any other alternative. I don’t know any artist who has been able to access the fund. The money could have been used to help us with food parcels or to assist us with creating online works for ourselves.”
Bridget van Oerle, owner of Buz Consulting said: “As a support business in the creative industry, or the ‘missing middle’ we and many of our colleagues have been affected. We had a fair bit of work lined up for the first half of the year and this was cancelled or postponed, we still do not know if the postponed projects will pick up.
“We have not accessed the relief fund because when the call went out, we had quite a big contract, but this was totally cancelled when we went into the second lockdown period. We have managed to get UIF for two months, which has helped and I am now applying for the Gauteng Relief Fund.”
Relief for some but not for others
In the sports industry, while some of the country’s top athletes did not apply due to sufficient funding they had received from their corporate sponsors, many had required government backing. Among those who did apply, most athletes who were approved had received their payments, but there were some exceptions.
Peet van Zyl, owner of In-Site Athlete Management, which represents some of the country’s top track and field athletes, said: “All our athletes who applied were approved for R20,000 payments, and they have received their payments.”
Eddie Khoza, Cricket South Africa’s head of player pathways, said the federation had not had a response to the requests they had made for support.
“When the funding originally became available, we applied on behalf of the umpires, scorers and academy coaches because they lost opportunities to work when we stopped cricket due to lockdown, but we did not apply for the players because they were still under contract and earning their salaries from us,” Khoza said.
“But we are still waiting for any response from the fund.”
In a few cases, the federation said it was unclear why the funding they requested had not been received.
“So far only one wheelchair tennis player and one coach were paid,” said a TSA spokesperson. “We’re still awaiting feedback on three wheelchair tennis athletes and a few coaches.”
“All 29 of our riders, in solidarity with our business, offered a voluntary salary reduction due to the impact of the pandemic,” said a team spokesperson.
“We have been very fortunate to have a fantastic set of partners who have continued to support us over this period, despite these very trying times.”