Pacofs still ‘more of the same’ – FS artists

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PHOTO: Pacofs

The artists that staged a sit-in at the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State (Pacofs) in Bloemfontein over March and April 2021 remain aggrieved nearly seven months since their demonstration.

The Free State coordinator of the Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa (Ccifsa), Mbuyiselo Nqodi, tells OFM News that it is still more of the same, since Sharon Snell was appointed as Pacofs’ acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in April 2021. Her controversial predecessor, Meshack Xaba, was removed from the top post but retained in the artistic director position. Nqodi tells OFM News they are awaiting a report on the allegations levelled against Xaba that will reveal whether he will be completely sacked from the institution or not.

Nqodi says the report needs to be presented to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts, and Culture before the artists can know the outcome of Xaba’s fate at Pacofs.

Nearly seven months since Nqodi and company staged the sit-in, they are yet to be shown the report. It is not yet known if the committee is in possession of such a report.

Meanwhile, Pacofs appears to be rolling out a number of productions and shows in the near future, featuring some local and national acts, like Steve Hofmeyr, as well as comedians Mpho Popps Modikoane and David Kau, among a long list of others.

Nqodi, who also directed one or two small shows at the centre, following the demonstration, says the issue was centred on how Pacofs was run and not a lack of opportunities per se. A 2018 investigative report by forensic auditing firm, Morar Incorporated, found Xaba guilty of wrongdoing with respect to the organisation of a gospel festival that was pitched to the centre by a local artist.

This “wrongdoing” includes the favourable treatment of Pacofs council member being roped into the show. Xaba ascended to the role of CEO, albeit on a temporary basis, in November of 2020 when the then CEO of Pacofs, Peter Pedlar, was suspended pending an investigation into his conduct. Pedlar joined the troubled centre in 2019 amidst expectations that he would turn around the institution.

Nqodi alleges that the industry is not represented on the artistic committee that reviews proposals for productions and submits them to the council for final consideration. He says that this maligns them and prejudices local artists. The committee is reportedly made up of people from institutions of higher learning in the city, as well as the arts and culture department. Pacofs as an entity falls under the national arts and culture department and not the provincial leg of said department.

OFM News/Olebogeng Motse