Music association Impra accused of 'swindling' artists' funds
South African music industry stakeholders are hopping mad after discovering that the Independent Music Performance Rights Association (Impra) has allegedly used money meant for royalties for its social relief fund drive.
These accusations have surfaced after the leading performance rights collection association received R10m from SABC for needle-time or performance royalties.
Impra, which according to its website represents over a 1,000 artists, is accused by legendary musician Sello "Chicco" Twala and other industry stakeholders of "swindling" monies meant for artists.
Twala raised an alarm through an open letter which was directed to ministers Nathi Mthethwa (sports, arts and culture), Stella Ndabeni (communications) and Ebrahim Patel (for trade and industry).
The collecting society was further accused of taking royalties and using them in its Impra/SABC Relief Fund project where some artists were paid R3,000 during the current Covid-19 crisis.
In the midst of all the drama, minister Mthethwa has been drawn into the fray as he is accused of "folding his arms" while the matter affects the livelihood of artists.
Said Twala in his letter: "Last week, two music collecting agencies - Impra and South African Music Rights Association (Sampra) - both received R10m each in the form of an advance payment from the SABC for needle-time royalties.
"Dodo Monamodi, who also acts as the CEO, informed musicians through a WhatsApp text that our funds will be used for Covid-19 relief charities". He described this as a "way of deflecting from the fact that Impra is stealing and abusing our funds".
SABC has confirmed that it paid Impra and Sampra needle-time royalties on May 8; the public broadcaster, however, distanced itself from the social relief fund drive in which its name was mentioned.
Acting SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said: "As part of its commitment to invest in the local music industry development and restore and maintain the dignity of artists, the SABC reached a consensus with both collecting societies, to make partial payment towards its royalties owed.
"This decision was prompted by the challenges faced by artists during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It is imperative to note that the SABC did not establish any specific relief fund intended for the artists. There is still an arbitration process anticipated and once concluded, the R10m paid will offset what the SABC owes to the societies."
Monamodi confirmed in a statement that Impra received R10m from SABC for needle-time royalties. He explained that the agreement on how the royalties will be distributed and how they happened and the aim thereof was to resolve the legal dispute on the allocation of needle-time royalties and the interim relief because of the challenges brought by Covid-19 to artists while the legal dispute is being resolved.
"The agreement did not deal specifically with Covid-19, although it was specifically defined in clause 2.1.6 thereof. Impra considered how best to distribute the funds received from the SABC having looked at the fact that Impra anticipated that all of its members were impacted by the Covid-19 and all would appreciate any form of relief available to them."
On where the relief fund money came from, Monamodi said: "The situation of money being paid to Impra against the backdrop of discussions concerning relief to members is unprecedented and complicated."
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