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No relief funds payment yet for artists

MOMPATI TLHANKANE
Ramoroka
The Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) has revealed that it is not certain when the creative industry’s COVID-19 relief fund will be paid.

MYSC will pay a relief for a period of three months being April, May and June 2020. The relief is eligible to a Motswana COSBOTS member who has applied for it. Artists will get P7, 500 in total for the three months period.

In an interview with Arts & Culture, MYSC Acting Permanent Secretary, Kgopotso Ramoroka said the Ministry was still processing payments. He said the payments would come in batches because most of the applications came in the last week of the deadline.

He acknowledged that they have received complaints about the issue of the delay and have since told the complainants to bear with them since the processing will take longer than they had expected.  Ramoroka also said it was not just entertainment but also other sectors like sports were being processed for payments. “The other delay was also caused by the fact that this whole process starts at district level and then it is later approved at the headquarters,” he said.

Ramoroka added that he was not certain when exactly they will start paying but he revealed that batches will be paid on first-come-first-serve basis. “We cannot wait to pay them all at the same  time so they will be paid in batches,” he highlighted.

Veteran Artist manager and music promoter, Zenzele Hirshfeld told Arts & Culture that they were still awaiting payment and they were told it was at vetting process.

“But last week we were informed that this week the first batch of payments will be made. They said they have to verify a lot of things. The process took too long so the communication gap is the one causing the frustration out there because we are now going on social media to plead,” she said.  Hirshfeld said they were the first industry to be shut down and have not been working since March and they do not

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even know when the creative industry was going to open. She said as Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA), they were in talks with MYSC to figure out how best to reopen the industry.

For her part, Hamptons Jazz Fest promoter Debbie Smith noted that there have been some frustrations from promoters who were promised funds by MYSC as relief funds since creatives were struggling with no income.  

“To this day, no relief payments have been made and a lot of promoters and artists are upset,” she further reiterated.

Smith also said there had been limited support on a way forward on events and any roll out plans support. “Personally with The Hamptons, we do not need relief funds, but we hope for support in other things like subsidised stadium venues, radio/TV advertising, both withholding tax income relief,” she highlighted.

Smith added that they had not spoken to the MYSC Minister directly, but they were working with other promoters to see how best they could be supported as the creative industry.

She said not having any plans from MYSC on a way forward really frustrated them as promoters.

“It’s frustrating to hear ministers saying the creative industry is a multi-million dollar business and can create jobs. Wel,l we all know that.  All we would need ministers commenting on the industry is to tell us how they will support us in achieving this,” she highlighted.

Local renowned music promoter, Godwin “Exotic Exoxo” Sebina of Exoxo Entertainment said no one in the country has received the relief fund. But they were now demanding the industry to be opened in order to make money.

“The relief fund is not going to help everyone and is not enough as the COVID-19 is escalating to even December. Even if they pay now, it all goes to debts so we want them to open the industry once and for all,” he said.



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