Johannesburg – Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has expressed concern about the large number of artists who were not recommended to access the department’s Covid-19 relief fund.

Mthethwa said his department had seen concerning differences in the application process in the sports and arts industries. He said the sporting section for applications for access to relief funds had gone through smoothly as the applications were done through sporting federations.

He added for the arts industry it has been difficult reaching artists, but also there were no strong and organised industry bodies that could assist the department in reaching artists such as in the sporting industry.

Mthethwa had announced on March 25 a relief fund for the sports and the arts industries. The fund would see R150 million being distributed to athletes and artists who had been hard hit by the closure of businesses during the lockdown.

The application processes for the arts and sports industries closed in April. Two panels were appointed for the arts and sports industries.

He said in the sports industry 300 applications were received by April 23. From sports federations, the department received 473 applications from 25 federations and 291 were approved for payment. He said the various sporting facilities assured that the funds would be distributed to athletes. The federations had to supply details for each athlete, Mthethwa said.

In the art industry, the picture was different. The adjudication panel received over 1 050 applications which were processed and 232 were recommended. A total of 603 applications were not recommend.

Mthethwa said he was worried about the high number of applications that were not recommended with 203 that were sent back to the department. The applications that were sent back had issues with no clear indication of event cancellation details and also missing documents.

He said he would be meeting with various art industry organisations to discuss how artists in need could be reached. He said he would not want to see the funds not reach intended individuals. A second round of applications was also up for consideration.

“The number of people who were not recommended is huge. We are concerned that a large number of people did not succeed. These applications come from historically disadvantaged communities, but at the same time, we have to do due diligence and make sure we adhere by the criteria. We really are concerned. We need to do something to ensure that at the end the people who need this are assisted,” Mthethwa said.

“We are going to have a conversation with existing arts organisations so that they can help in reaching out to the artists. We are not going to be happy that money is not spent when there is an outcry.”

By Zintle Mahlati