Mthethwa dismisses calls for National Arts Council to be placed under administration

Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa told the MPs that the National Arts Council (NAC) will never be placed under administration, labeling media reports on the troubled agency as “information peddling”.

Mthethwa, his team, and the NAC appeared before Parliament’s portfolio committee on sports, arts and culture on Friday, to respond to recent resignations at the arts council and various allegations of mismanagement that has marred the agency and council chairperson Celenhle Dlamini.

Why is the minister interfering?

Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Tsepo Mhlongo accused Dlamini of “not telling the truth and hiding information” from MPs, after she laid the blame on former interim CEO Marion Mbina-Mthembu for the employment of Tshepo Mashiane.

The latter’s matter was escalated to Mthethwa using law firm Moodie & Robertson, leaving unanswered questions on why the minister was being involved in staffing matters.

“Your presentation is not clear. We don’t want to get the details from media… Tell us. Mashaine’s post was advertised, why did the council see it appropriate that minister be involved?” asked Mhlongo .

“What law allowed the Mashiane matter to be sanctioned by the minister? Who authorised the appointment of legal firm Moody & Robertson? I have evidence before me, these decisions were never brought before council for approval.

“Chairperson, we are being lied to. The NAC must be placed under administration. The minister must start afresh… Remember the PESP [Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme] issue and board members benefitting. I move a motion that it be put under administration.”

ALSO READ: Exclusive: NAC turmoil – ‘Chairperson running council like a spaza shop’

CEO wasn’t fired, she resigned, despite dismissal letter

Committee chairperson, ANC MP Beauty Dlulane, who earlier kicked The Citizen out of the virtual meeting without an explanation, told the MPs that such a motion needed the support of all committee members.

“I’ll need all members to respond on that. There is nothing wrong with that proposal, but we cannot apply it without considering other members,” she said.

According to Dlamini, Mbina-Mthembu resigned as interim CEO, in order to apply for the same position later. However, a termination letter obtained by The Citizen and signed by Dlamini shows that she was fired and told she won’t be allowed to work for the rest of August.

Mbina-Mthembu has since approached the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), claiming unfair dismissal.

National Orchestra facing scrutiny

Last week, the SA Music Promoters Association (Sampra) called on the committee to obtain minutes and decisions taken on the funding of the contentious NAC-funded national philharmonic orchestra that has since landed Mthwethwa in hot water.

The organisation further called for the agency’s council to be disbanded and placed under administration.

“The NAC has to be cleaned up. You have to start somewhere and the NAC is the haven and epicentre of everything that is wrong about the management of the Department of Arts and Culture and its agencies,” they wrote.

‘NAC not in a crisis’

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Ringo Madlingozi asked why the NAC reached a settlement with former CEO Rosemary Mangope even though her disciplinary hearing was still ongoing. The question was never answered.

“Why do that when she was on the wrong side of the law? Also, was there a contract for Mbina-Mthembu? And was Bongani Tembe’s [national orchestra CEO] application put through a transparent process? He is council member and also a staff member. How is he holding executive position while he is also artistic director for Gauteng and KZN?

“What’s the memorandum of understanding here? Lastly, why is R65m stashed at the Reserve Bank while artists are going hungry?”

Ringo Madlingozi

Tembe said the orchestra matter has been scheduled to be discussed at an upcoming meeting with MPs on 16 September.

“That matter will be dealt with then, according to a formal response from you, chairperson. Also, one of the committee members implied that council was involved in corruption. Even on the matter of previous CEO [Mangope], the issue was maladministration, no single council member stole any money,” he said, despite the forensic report implicating senior management and former council members in the PESP fraud.

READ MORE: Arts council CEO hits back, after she’s allegedly fired for wanting to report wasteful expenditure

According to Mthethwa, those who left the NAC did so because they were overwhelmed with their other duties outside of council.

He told the MPs that NAC deputy chairperson Phumzile Zitumane, who resigned last month along with council member Linda Mvanana, pressured Mbina-Mthembu to hire Mashiane.

“Remember that council members are not full-time at the NAC. Two of them resigned last year after the forensic report. Mbina-Mthembu and Mashiane left recently.

“Zitumane [Dlamini’s deputy] was the one who pressured interim CEO [Mbina-Mthembu] to appoint Mashiane. I am raising these resignations to make a point that they left not because of NAC, but on their own accord themselves… It has nothing to do with NAC. If anyone decides to resign, we will replace them, there is no crisis whatsoever.”

He added that there was no basis for the NAC to be placed under administration.

“That won’t happen. What we saw playing in public discourse is information peddling out there in the media. What is needed from this committee is support for NAC and the artists. 90 percent of all these things are just gossip from peddlers or those who don’t know the truth.”

NOW READ: PESP fraud: Senior NAC members implicated in R300m mismanagement

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