Premier intervenes in Pacofs fiasco

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Premier Sefora Ntombela at Pacofs engaging with the artists regarding their issues.

As the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State’s (Pacofs) sit-in by artists nears the 10-day mark, Premier Sefora Ntombela said the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, has committed to visit the province in the not so distant future to address artists.

Premier Ntombela reminded the group of unhappy artists of the dangers posed by the Coronavirus, particularly when members are staging a sit-in at the centre.

Ntombela, together with the Executive Council (MEC) responsible for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, Limakatso Mahasa, met with the artists, who have been sleeping in the Pacofs offices, earlier this week. They sympathised with them and assured them that their concerns were receiving the necessary attention.

During the engagement with the artists, the premier referred to her recent State of the Province Address, where emphasis was placed on the great need to support the creative sector which was one of the hardest hit sectors by Covid-19. Ntombela announced that 896 artists benefited from the R5 228 000 Covid-19 relief fund.

“We are not oblivious to the suffering of many in the arts and creative sector, which is why we have agreed to give this matter the necessary attention.” Premier Ntombela said.
The provincial coordinator of the Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa (Ccifsa), Mbuyiselo Nqodi, told Bloemfontein Courant their efforts to be heard will be intensified as more artists joined them at Pacofs on Tuesday. He added it is alleged that certain Pacofs staff members will be joining their movement.

According to a statement by Ccifsa, their efforts are beginning to bear positive fruit as Ntombela has committed a further R2 million to artists to be spent before the end of this financial year. Ccifsa was invited to take part in the discussion on how that amount will be distributed in the Free State.

He said they are gearing up and reserving all their energy for the meeting they will be having with the Pacofs board today (Thursday). He explained that their expectations of the board are high that their demands will be met.

The group moved into Pacofs almost 10 days ago and wants the Pacofs council to, among other demands, oust Meshack Xaba as the acting CEO and artistic director of the centre. Nqodi and the artists feel they have been deliberately withholding Free State artists from opportunities to stage productions.

The group of the artists said they will stage this sit-in at Pacofs until the council comes back to them regarding a 2018 investigative report that allegedly found, Xaba, guilty of wrongdoing.