Mzwakhe Mbuli

By Staff Writer

On 5 October, Mzwakhe Mbuli penned a wrathful open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In the letter, The People’s Poet, as Mbuli is nicknamed, accuses Ramaphosa of snubbing artists who wanted to meet him and the corruption in the disbursement of Presidential Economic Stimulus Package (PESP).

Wrote Mzwakhe: “Your stoic SILENCE is too LOUD. Artists have long wanted to meet with you, but all in vain. Since the introduction of the Lockdown Mr President, you have never met the Artists.

&We wanted to ask you concerning what happened at CODESA? Was Arts and Culture on the agenda?”

He further charged: “Mr President, artists wanted to talk to you about your PESP R300 million. Artists wanted your intervention, to instruct the SIU to investigate the misappropriation of funds that are earmarked for the Presidential Empowerment Stimulus Programme PESP. The R300 Million is in your name, Mr President.&

Mzwakhe took also umbrage with the SABC and the South African Music Rights Organisation, saying these two institutions have not transformed.

“Artists wanted to bring to your attention that since the dawn of our democracy the airwaves have not transformed, but instead perpetuate apartheid stereotypes and tribalism. Honourable President Ramaphosa you cannot turn a blind eye,” wrote the People’s Poet.

He also makes mention that Parliament’s Portfolio Committee met separately with artists and the Nations Arts Council (NAC).

“They have since concluded that NAC lied and the PESP funds were misappropriated.
Mr President, your New Dawn, Thuma Mina is rendered meaningless. Can you afford to keep quiet when Artists are defrauded? Policies are being violated?”

He pulled no punches when he said: “In SA, Artists are contemptuously treated and celebrated as heroes when they die. Most of them go to their graves with broken hearts. Mr President, we do not want state funerals but justice.”

The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) blasted Mbuli in its response, saying they have “noted an article titled “Mbuli slams Ramaphosa regarding artists’ plight”, where Mr Mzwakhe Mbuli alleges among other things, that the government does not care about the plight of artists, &that, artists are being defrauded. Mr Mbuli further goes on to accuse the President of being inactive in dealing with these matters.

Artists feel let down by government.

“This statement is devoid of any truth and is rather disingenuous of Mr Mbuli. Sadly, he has also jumped on the bandwagon of others who, despite the support they have received in the past, continue to feed the public with misrepresentations that are not backed up by publicly available and verifiable facts.&

&The DSAC, led by Minister Nathi Mthethwa has, through various initiatives, supported the sector. We have consistently emphasised the fact that the available funds could never be sufficient to support each and every artist,& read the DSAC statement.

“We are a caring government. Mr Mbuli is living testimony of this. For the past five years, the DSAC has supported Mr Mbuli financially to the tune of R12m for various projects. Through the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP), the President has ensured that artists have received R272m out of the R285m meant for artists, precisely because the President understands the importance of the creative sector.

&The last 4% is being finalised through applications that are currently being processed by the National Arts Council (NAC).

“While we empathise with the plight of artists in the country due to the devastating impact of Covid-19, particularly on the sport, arts and culture sector, we implore practitioners to be balanced in their representation of the government and the role that the government has played during this difficult time.

“In the final analysis, we remain open for genuine engagement with the sector. We are focused on finding economic recovery and reconstruction solutions for the sector and appeal to all role players to focus their energies positively in this direction.”

Mzwakhe hit back at the DSAC, and said: “The department is not equivalent to the Presidency.”

According to Mzwakhe, the DSAC statement is crafted and designed to mislead the public that, “I benefited from the R300 Million PESP scandal. Why link my name to the R300 million PESP?&

An unapologetic Mzwakhe added: “I am the People’s Poet and the voice of reason. In SA, people are paralysed by complacency and politically hypnotised.  Let us not be distracted or fooled.

&The DSAC must release the PESP Final Report and not divert the attention of the public. The nation awaits the final report and how the R300m PESP was distributed from October 2020 to March 2021.”

He expressed cautious hope when he said: “We are delighted and find solace that the R300m PESP corruption case is in the hands of the Hawks.”

He took a swipe at Nathi Mthethwa, and said: “The Arts and Culture Ministry inherited a former Police Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, fresh from the Marikana Massacre. I wish the dead could rise and see what their sacrifice has become.&

These spats take place against the backdrop of disgruntled artists, who felt cheated and neglected following the scandal in the distribution of PESP funds by the NAC.

A forensic report commissioned by the NAC and initiated by the DSAC following artists’ complaints places the scandal in the hands of some NAC council members and senior managers.

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