ActionSA boss Herman Mashaba has offered legal assistance to the artists and creatives in protest in the offices of the National Arts Council (NAC) in Newtown, Johannesburg.
Mashaba introduced his legal team to a meeting with yesterday afternoon Artists who have been camping at the NAC for 49 days demanding answers about the distribution of funds from the Presidential Stimulus Employment Program (PESP). The legal team, led by attorney Wendel Bloem of Mkhabela Huntley Attorneys, will assist artists with PESP funding issues as well as with the Johannesburg Supreme Court injunction to evict the artists. The court order was passed on April 5, but the artists were defiant and said they had nowhere to go.
Mashaba, who applauded the artists for deciding to hold a sit-in, assured them that all of their legal issues would be handled by his legal team. He stated that art and culture are a pride of every nation and should be taken seriously. He said that if the artists hadn’t put on a sit-in, no one would have known about their struggles and suffering.
Mashaba stated, “I’m here after meeting you last month. I firmly believe that the art 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 are committed to bearing the legal costs and doing everything we can to support you. Our job is to introduce the legal team and inform you of your problems.
“You don’t have to worry about the cost of this legal intervention. We provide you with a legal team that has proven to us that human rights violations are beyond duty. “
Opera singer Sibongile Mngoma, who leads the group Now called Abahlali Base NAC, she said,” Thank you very much for actually keeping your word. It is very rare for a politician to give you his word and keep it. The last time you were here you promised to provide [us] with legal assistance and you came back to deliver.
“We’re still talking about the process that is still ongoing . They keep mentioning that they pay people, but artists who have signed contracts are still waiting to be paid. We said they need to publish a list of paid people, their pay, and projects. You just managed to publish a list with no projects. “
Bloem said:” We will do everything possible to correct the wrong thing. We want to do that very quickly. First, we have to deal with uncertainty. When it comes to uncertainty, we will examine why limited information is provided to artists upon request. Our conditions are to receive all information. If necessary, we will go to court for information. Once we have the information, we will be in a better position to take a legal position on what to do with a corrective allocation of funds. “