Once Covid-19 hit our shores, Nathi Mthethwa decided to pack a room with the key stakeholders within his purview.
Over two sessions, Mthethwa spoke to the media, sports federations and leaders in the arts field, ostensibly with the intention of “finding a way forward”. Two days later, one of the people at the meeting, who had just returned from the United Kingdom, tested positive for the coronavirus.
At the worst time for the industry Mthethwa offered almost nothing other than to regurgitate government slides about washing one’s hands for 20 seconds.
The one firm and solid call he did make was for sport to continue as normal — a shortsighted suggestion quickly overruled by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The whole episode was in keeping with the description of Mthethwa as a “minister of condolences” — an official who is quick to offer platitudes on social media but is lacking in constructive ideas.
In the arts, the pandemic seemed mostly to exacerbate the reputation of the ministry as a cronies’ club.
Scanning the arts terrain one can easily see that access to Covid-19 relief was hinged on proximity to the ANC, a proximity leveraged, in many cases, by the Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa. Many people were left out of initial relief efforts and the more resourceful among artists simply set up alternative sources of relief.