The imperative for genuine change in the CCI

Thami aka Mbongo

Thamsanqa aka Mbongo: The imperative for genuine change in the Cultural and Creative Industries: moving beyond empty calls for unity.

As the new government takes the helm in South Africa, there is an urgent need to abandon the worn-out rhetoric of demanding unity and a single voice from the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs).

This call for unity has been a constant refrain, yet it starkly contrasts with the glaring disunity among the 18 political parties in the National Assembly, which have struggled to form a cohesive Government of National Unity (GNU). Expecting a sector as inherently diverse as the CCIs to speak in one voice is not only unrealistic but also disregards the sector’s complex and multifaceted nature.

The previous ruling party’s approach was emblematic of this contradiction. They enforced a rigid structure, compelling the CCIs to align with a singular federation that mirrored the party’s own identity and ideology. This federation became the sole recognized voice, effectively sidelining other perspectives and stifling the sector’s rich diversity.

Former Minister Nathi Mthethwa institutionalized this directive through the MinMEC, ensuring that all provincial MECs adhered to this monolithic approach. Attending events organized under this regime often felt indistinguishable from attending a ruling party rally, with the federation’s colours and rhetoric closely mirroring those of the party.

However, the political landscape has shifted. The previous ruling party, having failed to secure a two-thirds majority, now advocates for national unity—a stark departure from its previous stance. This shift underscores the inherent challenges in expecting unity within the CCIs. The industry’s myriad sectors and sub-sectors, each with its unique identity and needs, cannot be shoehorned into a single voice. The call for unity must recognize and respect this diversity rather than attempt to homogenize it.

The new MECs and provincial cabinet must prioritize returning to the drawing board. The previous administration’s policies have not united the CCIs; rather, they have sown division. The sector has been misled and manipulated, often by officials within the Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture (DSAC) and its entities, who have exploited the system for personal gain. This manipulation has created a toxic environment that hinders the industry’s growth and cohesion.

To rectify this, a comprehensive review is necessary. The starting point should be the regulation of the industry to ensure fairness and transparency. This includes cleaning up the DSAC and its associated entities, removing officials who have contributed to the sector’s dysfunction. Establishing a robust regulatory framework will help restore order and trust within the CCIs.

Furthermore, the government must engage with a broad spectrum of voices within the industry. Recognizing and valuing the diversity of opinions and experiences will foster a more inclusive and representative sector. This approach will enable the CCIs to thrive, contributing significantly to the country’s cultural and economic landscape.

In conclusion, the incoming government has a critical opportunity to redefine its relationship with the Cultural and Creative Industries. Moving beyond the hollow calls for unity, it must embrace the sector’s diversity and implement meaningful reforms. By doing so, it can cultivate a vibrant, dynamic, and genuinely united cultural landscape that reflects the true spirit of South Africa.

Thamsanqa aka Mbongo
akaMbongo Foundation Pty Ltd

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Thami aka Mbongo writes on his personal capacity.