Mashaba delivers on promise to fund artists legal fight

Action SA leader Herman Mashaba met with protesting artists who have staged a sit-in since early March at the National Arts Council in Newtown.
Action SA leader Herman Mashaba met with protesting artists who have staged a sit-in since early March at the National Arts Council in Newtown.
Image: Thulani Mbele

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba has offered legal assistance to the artists and creatives in sit-in protest at the  National Arts Council (NAC) offices in Newtown, Johannesburg.

Mashaba introduced his legal team yesterday afternoon during a meeting with artists who have been camping out at NAC for 49 days demanding answers on how funds from the Presidential Stimulus Employment Programme (PESP) were distributed. The legal team, led by advocate Wendel Bloem of Mkhabela Huntley Attorneys, will assist artists on PESP funding issues and also the interim court order that was granted to the NAC by the Johannesburg High Court to evict the artists. The court order was issued on April 5 but the artists have been defiant, saying they are going nowhere.

Mashaba, who applauded the artists for taking the decision to stage a sit-in, assured them that all their legal issues would be taken care of by his legal team. He explained that arts and culture were a pride of any nation in the world and needed to be taken seriously. He said if the artists had not staged a sit-in no one would have known about their struggles and suffering.

Mashaba explained: “I am here following my meeting with you last month. I strongly believe that the arts industry is more than important. If you had accepted the status quo and continued to suffer in silence, losing homes and everything, no one would have known about your plight. As ActionSA, we commit to take care of legal costs and doing whatever is possible to assist you. Our role is to introduce the legal team and you brief them on your issues. You don’t have to worry about the costs of this legal intervention. We are giving you a legal team that has proven to us that when it comes to human rights abuse, they go beyond the call of duty.”

Opera singer Sibongile Mngoma, who is the leader of the group that now calls itself Abahlali base NAC, said: “Thank you so much for actually fulfilling your word. It is very rare for a politician to give you their word and fulfil it. The last time you were here you promised to assist [us] with legal assistance and you came back to deliver. We are still talking about the process that is not completed. They keep mentioning that they are paying people, but artists who have signed contracts are still waiting for payment. We said they must release a list of people paid, how much they were paid and the projects. They only managed to release a list without projects included.”

Bloem said: “We will do whatever we can to correct the wrong. We intend to do that very quickly. Firstly, we have to deal with uncertainty. When it comes to uncertainty we will look at why there is limited information provided to the artists upon request. Our terms will be to get all the information , if it is necessary we will go to court to get information. Once we have the information then we are in the better position to take a legal position as to what is supposed to happen in terms of any corrective spreading of the funds.”

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