15 Sep 2020
On 13 March 2020, the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture met with the sectors to discuss challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of these consultations was to share vital information on the status of the Coronavirus in South Africa and to assess its adverse consequences, with a view to develop mitigation strategies thereof. These workshops were successful and together with the sectors, the Department formulated a coordinated national response in the form of the COVID-19 Relief Fund. Furthermore, the organisations submitted names of representatives from various sub-sectors, who were integral in the process of adjudication and later, the appeals process.
The first wave was extended to accommodate disadvantaged applicants; and to allow sufficient time for them to secure the required documentation. The appeals process that was introduced served as an enabler; and ultimately led to a total of 4 772 applicants benefiting from the first wave of the COVID-19 Relief Fund. This was out of a total of 5 786 applicants.
To date, the Department has held consultations with organisations such as Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa (CCIFSA), South African Roadies Association (SARA), South African Collecting Societies, South African Music Industry Council (SAMIC), South African Screen Federation (SASFED) and Independent Black Filmmakers Forum, the Southern African Communications Industries Association (SACIA), Theatre & Dance Employers Association (TDEASA), House of Crew, South African Arts and Culture Youth Forum (SAACYF), Technical Production & Services Association, as well as Trade Union for Musicians of South Africa (TUMSA).
The Department has acknowledged that the first wave was marred with challenges, mostly related to the lockdown. Therefore, upon broad consultation with the sector, the Minister opened a second wave of the COVID-19 Relief Fund and once again met with national organisations prior to finalising the criteria and application process.
Despite the opening of the second wave, DSAC has observed the challenges experienced by potential applicants in terms of their tax registration status, however, this is a mandatory requirement which the Department cannot eliminate.
The Department has consulted with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) following the outcry relating to taxation. SARS has indicated that potential applicants can register as tax payers in order to secure the documents required to submit their application. Furthermore, the turn-around time to process these applications is 24 hours and upon registering, applicants are then able to provide proof of tax registration, enabling them to submit their applications.
It is important to note that the Department can only disburse funds to arts practitioners who make a living from the arts industry and therefore, a certified bank letter is an acceptable recommendation. The Department also agreed to a recommendation by the sector organisations to accept referrals.
All arts practitioners are eligible, except those already receiving Government funding, including grants, or pensioners between the ages of 60-69. DSAC has a Living Legends Legacy Programme (LLLP) that caters to those who have contributed to the sector and are 70 years and above. The Department has resumed consultation on the Employment Stimulus Package and this is ongoing. Beneficiaries of this intervention will be individual creatives, organisations, institutions and other businesses within the creative industries, who meet the criteria.
With regards to relief for theatres and arts organisations, the Stimulus Package “Objective Two” will be made available to all formations, NPO’s, NGO’s, theatres, independent and semi-independent theatres, theatre makers and community theatre organisations, to ensure the sustained visibility of the arts industry. The arts sector will be informed through public calls in due course.
In light of the two extensions for applications in the second wave of relief funding, the Department continues to interact with those who have applied but whose applications have been stalled due to missing or incomplete documents. It would be unfair for one applicant to benefit twice in the same relief fund when there are some who have not benefitted at all.
The safe re-opening of the arts sector, including theatres and arts venues, has always been at the top of the agenda. With the recent Directions that were published, the Department re-opened venues, under strict health protocols, and further created live streaming opportunities for the sector to continue its work. Currently, based on consultations with the sector, we have taken their proposals to the Government and the Government is favourably looking at the re-opening of the economy, including the creative economy. In due course, Government is going to pronounce on this matter. The emphasis on adherence to strict health and safety protocols remains a critical priority while opening up the economy; and ensuring that the country does not get second wave COVID-19 resurgence; as has happened in other countries.
The Department remains committed to creating an enabling environment and developing sustainable livelihoods for sector practitioners, whilst ensuring that we safe guard against the spread of the Coronavirus. The Department and the Ministry have always maintained an open-door policy and will continue to engage the sector every step of the way.