As the country emerges slowly from the COVID-19 pandemic, government is moving from grants and relief mode to a sustainable economic recovery trajectory, says Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa.
Delivering his Budget Vote to Parliament on Thursday, Mthethwa said government will deploy resources for the recovery of the sport and creative economy, as it was the hardest hit by the pandemic.
“This will be done primarily through the implementation of the Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE) strategy in order to recalibrate the sport and creative economy for the benefit of our athletes and artists,” Mthethwa said.
As a strategy aimed at repositioning the cultural industries in the country, the MGE strategy opens up the arts, culture and heritage sector to effectively and comprehensively contribute to economic growth and job creation.
Future milestones include working towards the urgent need for a strengthened Cultural Diplomacy Framework, and a strengthened touring circuits programme, in collaboration with the Department of Tourism and international relations in the Africa region.
The work will also include practical African Union (AU) collaboration in sports and culture reporting entities, and the amalgamation of the reporting entities from 30 to five boards and councils in the country for nation building and social cohesion.
“There is a dire need to have a worldwide African based digital platform that houses all online creative arts and sporting platforms for control and sustainability of intellectual property and patents of South Africa and the AU member States’ intangible heritage,” the Minister said.
Since 2011, the MGE has supported more than 30 000 creatives across the spectrum to pursue their craft.
The department has supported several youth programmes to mitigate against the youth unemployment rate.
This includes the Debut Fund programme, The Young Patriots programme, and Artists in Schools and Film.
“The latter programme on film involves highly creative activities wherein a task is given to youth to produce 10 short documentaries of unsung African heroes and heroines.
“This culminated in the production of an anthology titled ‘Not all heroes wear capes. These documentaries will be showcased during Heritage Month in the current financial year,” the Minister said.
The department financially supports language practitioners, especially those who study indigenous languages.
“On an annual basis, we support on average 400 students to study across the country in different universities. These are the University of Zululand, Northwest University, University of Venda, University of the Western Cape, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Fort Hare, University of Free State, and Nelson Mandela University.
“It is encouraging that we are beginning to see students completing Masters and PhDs dissertations across a variety of academic fields using African languages. This is a remarkable fulfilment of the transformative constitutionalism obligation imposed on government by section 6 of the founding provisions of our Constitution,” the Minister said.
In the past three years, the department – through grassroots level programmes – supported 331 community arts centres.
“In 2021, we opened the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex in Gqeberha, which was immediately declared a cultural institution under the Cultural Institutions Act 119 of 1998.
“Again in Kimberly, Northern Cape, we officially opened a theatre, a space for expansion of cultural and artistic ecosystem in the province,” the Minister said.
In March this year, the department launched an inaugural programme themed “Beautiful Things Exhibition” at the Graskop Gorge in Mpumalanga. The aim is to make this an annual feature to ensure a wider scope, enhance inclusion of more crafters and allow for wider reach of potential markets.
In an effort to cushion the sport and creative industries from the impact of the pandemic, government responded to the sector through relief, grants and the Presidential Economic Stimulus Package.
“This said, we acknowledge that not all benefited from such interventions by government. This is so because of the finite financial resources at the disposal of the State.
“We tried to stretch the rand as far as we possibly could. Over this period, the department has supported athletes, artists, and their organisations financially to the tune of R808 million, benefiting 59 224 artists and athletes with 37 556 jobs created and retained,” the Minister said.
The department also opened up the sector again in order to guarantee livelihoods by initiating a campaign, “Return to Play, It is in Your Hands,” led by the Deputy President.
The campaign’s roadshow covered seven provinces, with the key objective of getting the nation to vaccinate.
“We thank the partnership we forged with both the sporting, creative and the private sectors for their contribution in driving the campaign. We are not out of the woods yet in terms of COVID-19, hence we say all hands on deck with the vaccination drive and encourage those who have not yet vaccinated to do so, because it is the right thing to do,” the Minister said.