National Arts Council: Briefing by Department; Lamathonsi Entertainment

Arts and Culture

24 June 2008
Chairperson: Ms T Tshivhase(ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Lamathonsi Entertainment requested support for a five-day workshop event, the Mams Arts Festival. Learners from four provinces would be encouraged to participate. Those who showed outstanding talent would be recommended to a special arts school to be established at Guguletu.

The Department of Arts and Culture responded to concerns that the Committee had previously raised about the National Arts Council’s Annual Report 2006/07 about financial matters and cost-effectiveness. The principal concern of Members was an apparent failure on the part of the Department and the National Arts Council to answer or, at the very least, acknowledge enquiries or applications from artists for support. A further concern was that the rural areas should benefit from the activities of arts organisations.

Meeting report

Lamathonsi Entertainment presentation
Mr Jerry Mkuna, Managing Director: Lamathonsi Entertainment, said that Lamathonsi Entertainmenthad entered into a partnership with a film making organisation entitled Playing For Change Foundation located in Hollywood in the United States of America. This organisation had for the last three years been making a film about the four continents of the world. The organisation had come to South Africa, which the organisation recognised as representative of the African continent. The organisation had made some recordings in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban, and in the Western Cape. Places that they had visited included Guguletu, where they were so impressed by the vitality and lifestyle of the people that they had met, that they had decided that they wanted to establish an arts centre there. Currently they were in the process of building that arts centre. Two months hence they were expected to be able to present more information about the project. They had agreed with Mr Mkuna that they would be willing to visit Parliament to give a detailed presentation on their project. 

Lamathonsi Entertainment had over the last three years conducted workshops in the North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng. It wanted to provide more education and training in those provinces. Lamathonsi Entertainment was requesting support for a five-day workshop event – the Mams Arts Festival. Learners from these four provinces would be encouraged to participate. Those who showed outstanding talent would be recommended to the school in Guguletu in order to benefit from an ‘international level of education’. Mr Mkuna said that this was essentially the reason for his visit to the Committee.

Mr C Gololo (ANC) asked Mr Mkuna for more detailed reasons for his visit to the Committee.

Mr Mkuna responded that he was appearing before the Committee to seek support and guidance for the Mams Art Festival. He referred Mr Gololo to the Public Private Partnership Request document. He added that Lamathonsi Entertainment also had a project for young poets with a focus on combating HIV/AIDS and xenophobia. This project would be linked with the SABC.

Mr Mkuna explained further that he earned his living from managing artists, including jazz musicians. He sought to use some of his commercial earnings to support interventions to help the community. Lamathonsi Entertainment had experienced an ‘amazing’ response to a previous workshop in the North West Province. Two weeks ago one of the learners who attended that workshop telephoned Mr Mkuna with news of a contract to record an album and an invitation to appear at the Grahamstown festival. This was a direct result of the workshops. The previous year Lamathonsi Entertainment had conducted a workshop in Limpopo. The Limpopo Frontliners were formed as a result of that workshop. An album was expected to be released by the end of the year. Mr Mkuna wanted to give special attention to the rural areas. Learners had attended workshops in Secunda and Nelspruit in Mpumalanga, and at the State Theatre in Gauteng. There was a professional band named Ladies in Jazz that helped to raise the profile of the last-mentioned workshop. North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng were Lamathonsi Entertainment’s ‘target provinces’ for the workshops. He add that there was also a union for the artists.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) asked if Lamathonsi Entertainment was funded only by the Playing For Change Foundation, and asked for details of funding by discipline or speciality. She asked if Lamathonsi Entertainment was also seeking funding from the Department of Arts and Culture. She suggested that Lamathonsi Entertainments’s project might be more sustainable if there were more arts centres rather than bring children from all over the country to Guguletu.

Mr Mkuna reaffirmed that Lamathonsi Entertainment was seeking finance from the Department of Arts and Culture. Between October 2007 and March 2008 he had submitted four proposals to the Department. Because of lack of information on his part, Mr Mkuna thought that he was simultaneously sending his proposals to the provincial departments. He had delivered his proposals to the reception desk but was worried because he had not received even a letter of acknowledgement.

Mr Mkuna said that for the time being the Guguletu school was the only such establishment available. It featured a studio based on practices in the USA.

The Chairperson asked if the Playing For Change Foundation visitors were willing to travel to the rural areas, and who would inform them of the particular needs of provinces. She asked if Lamathonsi Entertainment would facilitate interaction with the rural people.

Mr Mkuna responded that his organisation would take the American visitors to the rural areas. He confirmed that Lamathonsi Entertainment would be facilitating rural artists and would work with provincial arts councils.

Mr S Opperman asked for Lamathonsi Entertainment’s audited statements for previous years.

Mr Mkuna responded that he would be ready in July to submit such statements at the same time as he would submit them to the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

Mr H Maluleka (ANC) also asked if Lamathonsi Entertainment had submitted any proposal or made any request to the Department of Arts and Culture. If Lamathonsi Entertainment had not submitted such a request, the organisation would be well advised to do so. He recommended that any proposal be accompanied by the audited financial statements that Mr Opperman had requested. This information would be relevant in assisting the Department of Arts and Culture to determine whether or not Lamathonsi Entertainment met the Department’s criteria for funding.

Ms D van der Walt (DA) suggested that if Lamathonsi Entertainment had not already done so it should apply for assistance to the National Arts Council to which private organisations like Lamathonsi Entertainment could apply. She explained that the Committee and the Department of Arts and Culture dealt mainly with public entities.

Mr Mkuna responded that his application to the National Arts Council (NAC), submitted in February 2008 was in progress and he expected to hear by 30 June 2008 about the Limpopo, Mpamalanga, and North West Province workshops.

Also Ms Van der Walt asked if Lamathonsi Entertainment had applied to the provincial authorities, since it was a provincial issue rather than a national one.

Mr Mkuna replied that he preferred to apply in the first instance to the national Department of Arts and Culture, before approaching the provinces, since he thought that it would be more effective to consider a request to support an event benefiting four provinces collectively.

Mr C Gololo (ANC) said that Lamathonsi Entertainment appeared to be doing a fine job for the senior citizens. He asked if Lamathonsi Entertainment had any intention to become involved in the 2010 World Cup Soccer event.

Mr Mkuna responded that he did not 'know where to knock' or how to proceed otherwise he would be happy to undertake a 25 hour bus ride, as he had done to attend the Committee meeting.

Mr Mkuna was concerned with education and training for his musician clients. He had received a call from an inmate of a correctional facility who said that he wished that Lamathonsi Entertainment would conduct workshops in the prison. Mr Mkuna said that a friend in another prison had reminded him that former President Nelson Mandela had called for arts in prisons. He was considering an approach to the Department of Correctional Services, but wanted to know how to contact the relevant officials.

Mr Gololo asked for the number of staff members employed by Lamathonsi Entertainment.

Mr Mkuna responded that there was himself and two others. The three of them did 'anything and everything'. Some freelancers and volunteers helped out. This was where fees became expensive. Running a company was expensive. He had been unable to pay the company's rent, so now he was working from home.

Mr C Gololo (ANC) asked what kind of entertainment Lamathonsi Entertainment offered for the elderly.

Mr Mkuna responded that Lamathonsi Entertainment sought to include activities for the elderly in its outreach. Pensions and grants were not sufficient. There were two kinds of elders for whom Lamathonsi Entertainment wanted to offer activities. Every Sunday elders converged in community halls, but afterwards they often felt lonely since one tended to find always the same people there. He expressed the hope that the Department of Arts and Culture would embrace the aims and aspirations of the elders and visit those gathering places. In each place there was a chairperson; he suggested calling upon their best dancers, amongst whom there should be a competition for the best dance that would create an audience. He called upon people to entertain themselves. He did not want to impose his own ideas but engage the ideas of the youngsters who themselves were reviving some ‘golden oldie’ songs

Ms D Ramodibe (ANC) said that it was certainly important to empower and educate the country's musicians whose talents had been exploited for too long. Some artists died poor. Ms Ramodibe said that Mr Mkuna had not described clearly in his oral presentation what his organisation had accomplished thus far, but said that she expected perhaps to find the information in the documents that Members had just received.

Mr Mkuna asked if Ms Ramodibe had in her possession pages 2 and 5 of the document describing organisational needs. He referred her to the document 'Public Private Partnerships' in which he had mentioned the workshops that his organisation had offered in 2006/2007. In 2006 Lamathonsi Entertainment had been registered. An international organisation had through Lamathonsi Entertainment's participation funded Louis to record a jazz album that was expected to be released worldwide and lead to the opening of more doors throughout the world.

Mr Maluleka said that Mr Mkuna should take note of Ms Van der Walt's observations on the possibility that the National Arts Council and the provincial councils, if requested, might assist his organisation. He suggested that the Committee should ask the Department of Arts and Culture at least as a matter of courtesy to acknowledge Mr Mkuna's letter. Since he himself was based in Tshwane, he would himself follow-up Mr Mkuna's proposal submitted to the municipality some time previously.

The Chairperson thanked Lamathonsi Entertainment and observed that Members' questions were highly pertinent. She expressed the hope that Lamathonsi Entertainment would do its best for the rural areas where there were many artists whose talents were currently wasted for lack of opportunity and where the people needed the benefits of such activities as promoted by Lamathonsi Entertainment.

Department of Arts and Culture briefing on the National Arts Council (NAC)
Mr France Sesedinyane, Acting Director for Arts Institutional Governance, Department of Arts and Culture, briefly addressed the Committee on some concerns that the Committee had previously raised with regard to the NAC Annual Report for 2006/07, and responded to Members’ questions.

Mr Sesedinyane referred to pages 20-21 of the NAC Annual Report 2006/2007 and to the NAC Chief Operating Officer’s 23 June 2008 letter to the Director-General, Department of Arts and Culture. He trusted that Members were already in receipt of those documents.

Mr Gololo commended the National Arts Council on its improved audit report. He hoped that in future the Council would win an award for the best audit report of public entities. He asked, with regard to human resources, how many staff vacancies existed in the NAC, and what plans the Council had to fill them.

Mr Sesedinyane responded that the only NAC vacancy of which he was well aware was the position of communication manager. This had been advertised early in 2008, and interviews had been conducted; however, the successful candidate had declined upon receipt of a counter offer. Mr Sesedinyane did not know if any of the other candidates had been approached to fill the position. 

Ms Ramodibe thanked the National Arts Council for its ‘firm measures’ in addressing the issues that the Committee had previously raised. Further to Mr Gololo’s question she asked if the NAC staff lacked the requirements and capacity to perform their assigned tasks.

Mr Sesedinyane responded that, in order to ensure staff capacity, all persons previously hired by the NAC on a contract basis had since been appointed as permanent staff. The National Arts Council acknowledged that permanent appointments were required for the sake of stability. As far as he was aware, there were no longer any structural deficiencies within the NAC except the vacant post of communications manager, about which he had no further information.

Ms Ramodibe asked if the NAC had an internal audit committee.

Ms Ramodibe said that it was a very serious matter that the Auditor-General had complained that the NAC could not provide adequate information for the purposes of the evaluation of the NAC’s performance (page 21), and asked if the matter was being addressed.

Mr Sesedinyane responded that he did not really understand the subject and could therefore not respond.

Ms Van der Walt asked if the NAC’s problems with the Lottery Board had been solved.

Mr Sesedinyane replied that the responsibility for the national lottery remained with the Department of Trade and Industry, and that the Department of Arts and Culture had had ‘no dealings whatsoever’ with the lottery, unless there had been some unofficial contacts of which he was not aware.

Ms Van der Walt was astonished that anyone should think that a conference was required to determine job descriptions, since this would be a costly exercise, and she would question the Minister on this matter. The NAC was not a new entity and should not require a conference not to mention a second one to determine job descriptions and policies: an internal workshop would be more appropriate and cost-effective. The money required could much better be spent on the arts.

Mr Sesedinyane assured Ms Van der Walt that he did not mean a conference in the strict sense of the word. It was rather ‘a very small meeting’ or ‘a gathering’ of governmental officials from each of the nine provinces. Such a meeting was necessary to gain an understanding of the broader mandate and the intentions of the provincial arts and culture councils. The forthcoming meeting would focus on developing national guidelines to which all the provincial arts and culture councils would be expected to align themselves. 

The Chairperson asked if the Department of Arts and Culture also funded the National Heritage Council.

Mr Sesedinyaneresponded that there were in the Department various directorates related to the legacy heritage project.

Mr Maluleka asked if 
Mr Sesedinyane was sure that all vacancies had been filled with the exception of the communications manager post.

Mr Sesedinyane confirmed that all vacancies had been filled with that one exception.

Mr Opperman pointed out that the previous presenter, Mr Mkuna had been asked if his organisation had applied to the NAC to which Mr Mkuna had replied that he had not received any acknowledgement.

Mr Maluleka, however, thought it better to leave the matter until the Committee could raise the matter with an official specifically concerned.

Mr Opperman said that he would accept Mr Maluleka’s opinion.

Mr Maluleka said that Ms Van der Walt had raised the issue of the NAC, to which Mr Mkuna’s organisation had not applied.

Ms Ramodibe said that Mr Mkuna’s organisation had applied and was expecting a response on Monday 30 June 2008.

Mr Sesedinyaneasked to whom specifically Mr Mkuna’s organisation had applied. Secondly, he asked when the application was submitted. If  Mr Sesedinyane were given that information, he could endeavour to make further enquiries. However, since he was from a different unit, he was not in a position to answer on the progress of an application to a different directorate. Nor was he in a position to answer on the progress of an application submitted to the NAC.
Ms Van der Walt said that ‘just to be fair’ it was the case that various artists wrote to the Committee to complain that their applications, whether to the Department of Arts and Culture or to the NAC, did not receive even the courtesy of an acknowledgement. She could provide the names of such artists who had not received any response.

The Chairperson said the Committee was very concerned about the Department of Arts and Culture’s failure to answer artists’ requests and that this was most frustrating to the artists concerned. It was incumbent on the Department to provide answers, even if the answer was an apology on account of insufficient funds. Failure to provide answers gave a poor impression of the Department’s credibility. She appealed on behalf of Members’ constituents for the Department to provide answers.

Mr Sesedinyane said that he had noted the Chairperson’s concerns and would forward them to the relevant individuals.

The Chairperson remarked that she looked forward to
Mr Sesedinyane’s future visit to the Committee, and eagerly awaited his answers to Members’ concerns; especially regarding the matter of ensuring that artists’ applications and enquiries replies were given due attention and that artists received replies.

Committee business
The Chairperson discussed with Members the programme and itinerary for the Committee's upcoming study tour and oversight visit to Gauteng at the end of July 2008. The Chairperson also informed Members of an invitation for three Members of the Committee to attend the 27 June 2008 Youth Parliament. Ms Van der Walt and Mr Gololo (ANC) offered to attend but apologised that because of other commitments they would not be able to remain for the entire event.

The meeting was adjourned.

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