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SONA: Creatives got lion’s share in COVID-19 relief funds

MOMPATI TLHANKANE
Out of the P19.4 million Masisi announced that 9,090 artists received P14.3 million that is 73% of the total money, PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
In the course of delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) this week, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that creatives received the lion’s share of the government financial relief programme having gone out to artists, youth and athletes.

Masisi said by September 2020, a total of P19.4 million had been paid to youth, athletes and artists to help them cope with the effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Out of the P19.4 million Masisi announced that 9,090 artists received P14.3 million that is 73% of the total money. “…340 youth received P1.5 million, while 889 athletes received P3.5 million of the relief package,” he said.

Masisi added that the financial relief programme was done to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on sport and the creative industry. “I note with sadness that many sport and cultural activities for 2020 were either postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19.

These include the Khawa Dune Challenge and Cultural festivals, the 1,000km Kgalagadi Desert Race, President’s Day Competitions, Constituency Sport and Arts competitions and other sporting activities such as football leagues. I wish to indicate, however, that the postponements and cancellations were necessary for the protection of our people,” he said.

Despite Masisi having revealed that creatives, youth and athletes only got P19.4 million out of the COVID-19 relief fund, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development Tumiso Rakgare in May this year said they had set aside P70.2 million solely to relieve artists, athletes and youth businesses from COVID-19 effects.  Rakgare swore that they would pay professional artists who were members of the Copyright Society Of Botswana (COSBOTS) P2,500 each for a period of three

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months starting April while members of their bands or support staff such as dancers, guitarists and back-up singers would each receive P1,000.

There were over 900 artists registered with COSBOTS at the time and about 15,000 artists who had filed to participate in the annual President’s Day Competitions were to each receive P1,000 monthly.  The payment of relief funds by the government resulted in some delays because the latter took a long time to pay creatives, this increasing their plight.

By June, the creatives were not yet paid and MYSC even admitted that they were not certain when the creative industry’s COVID-19 relief fund will be paid.

Meanwhile, Masisi also announced that besides the Arts Council that is expected to be in place by the beginning of the next financial year, the Cinematograph Act is being reviewed to strengthen the local film and television industry. Masisi said the drafting of the bill would be completed by the end of this financial year and it is meant to further optimise on the potential of the creative industry.

“In addition, government has developed the Creative Industries Strategy with the view to promote creativity, nurture skills and talent for job and wealth creation, particularly for our young people,” he highlighted.

Masisi reiterated that the creative industry holds great potential to improving the lives of Batswana and significantly contributing to employment creation and the development of the country.



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