Open Letter to Minister McKenzie, DSAC

Theatre and Dance Alliance and the STAND Foundation

Released on behalf of the Theatre and Dance Alliance and the STAND Foundation.

We extend a warm welcome to you, Honourable McKenzie on your appointment as the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture.

We recognize that your leadership comes at a crucial time for the arts sector in South Africa, a sector that has faced numerous challenges and setbacks over the past decades, not to mention the recent devastating Covid-19 Pandemic.

The cultural and creative industries are the heartbeat of our nation, reflecting our diverse heritage, telling our stories, and fostering social cohesion. However, under previous administrations, confidence in the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture has been significantly eroded. We have seen a history of neglect and mismanagement, which has led to a lack of support for our artists and cultural practitioners. This has resulted in many artists struggling to sustain their livelihoods and some being forced into precarious conditions.

We hope your appointment signifies a turning point. It’s crucial that your leadership addresses systemic issues within the DSAC and restores faith among artists and cultural workers.

We urge you to publicly affirm your commitment to the arts alongside sports, recognizing their role in our cultural identity and societal well-being.

We strongly suggest that you start by considering the Charter for the Rights of Artists, a document that was developed by a range of artists, arts organisations and networks, and which if adopted by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture as a touchstone, would provide a measure against which the department could ensure that its programme and activities strengthens, protects and recognises the role of the arts and artists in society. See https://www.tada.org.za/charter-of-rights

Based on suggestions from respected voices in our community, we recommend the following specific actions:

1. Dislodge CCIFSA from the DSAC: The Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa (CCIFSA) was created as a political federation by the ANC to control the arts sector for its political ends. It has a dismal track record and its influence should be removed.

2. Halt the Amalgamation of the National Arts Council and the National Film & Video Foundation: These entities are governed by separate legislation and cannot be merged without the necessary Acts being amended. The amalgamation is illogical as the film commissions fall under Economic Development, not arts and culture.

3. Stop the Creation of a Mega-Council for Performing Arts Institutions: This plan is not in accordance with the Cultural Institutions Act and is illogical for the unique needs of theatres compared to museums. Instead, resources should be used to build theatres in underserved provinces.

4. Review Performance Management Contracts: Take a personal interest in these contracts and dismiss senior officials who do not deliver. Ensure that those dedicated and experienced officials are retained for the sake of continuity.

5. Resolve Pending Legal Cases: The arts sector should not have to resort to legal action to have their issues addressed. Resolve these cases within the first three months.

6. Address Theatre & Dance Policy Proposals: Give immediate attention to the draft proposals and the final draft of the White Paper that have been neglected at the DSAC.

7. Review the DSAC’s Management of the Venice Biennale: The current mismanagement has done a disservice to the arts sector. This needs to be rectified.

8. Review Cultural Bilateral MOUs: These agreements should support international mobility for artists. The current failures need to be addressed and officials held accountable.

9. Promote Reading and Reduce Book Taxes: Work with SARS to make books more affordable and support publishing costs, promoting South Africa as a reading nation.

10. Prevent DSAC Officials from Acting as Event Producers: Their role should be to create policies and systems to support the sector, not to act as impresarios.

11. Appoint a Council for the Cultural & Creative Economy: This council should comprise industry professionals who can advise on transforming the sector into a thriving economy.

12. Address the Copyright Amendment Bill, which has a drastic impact on the livelihoods of artists and has been on the President’s desk for a very long time, albeit in a form that raises many concerns.

13. Consider the STAND TOGETHER Resolutions of 2021, which were developed to chart a way forward for a post-COVID recovery.

14. Ensure accountability through the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Arts & Culture

15. Reinvigorate arts in schools and communities, encouraging an arts-rich society through dedicated funding and attention to all those working on the ground. Access to arts and cultural activities enhances the overall quality of life, contributing to mental and emotional well-being, and ensuring a healthy society.

We urge collaboration with other ministries, including Trade, Industry and Competition, Employment and Labour, and Basic Education, to bring systemic change and regulation to protect the creatives in the sector.

We request your engagement with organizations like TADA, STAND Foundation, ASSITEJ South Africa, The PMA, and SAGA. These organisations, established by artists for artists, address the allegations of disorganisation within our sector and are relentlessly working to formalise and advocate for policies that uphold the constitutional rights of artists. Collaborating with these organisations will ensure that policies are informed by the experiences and the needs of those directly involved in the arts community, fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment for all artists in South Africa.

Additionally, we recommend consulting respected cultural leaders such as Ismail Mahomed, Sibongile Mngoma, Warona Seane, Mike Van Graan, Gregory Vuyani Maqoma, Lesego van Niekerk, Carlynn De Waal-Smit, and Althea Greenland, amongst others, for their invaluable insights.

Your role as Minister of Arts and Culture is crucial in a nation where the arts have historically confronted injustices and inspired change. By championing the arts, you ensure that creative voices continue to thrive, promoting cultural heritage and fostering unity.

We look forward to a future where the arts are valued and supported, and we stand ready to collaborate with you in this endeavour.

Yours in the arts,

THEATRE AND DANCE ALLIANCE
Represented by Mthokozisi Zulu

STAND FOUNDATION
Represented by Yvette Hardie


Yvette Hardie
yvette@standfoundation.org.za
082 859 5635
STAND FOUNDATION
http://www.standfoundation.org.za/