The upheaval at the National Arts Council (NAC) reached a boiling point with three council members resigning on Thursday.
The resignations come amidst governance issues and allegations of misconduct against chairperson Celenhle Dlamini.
The Citizen has published a series of articles detailing the near collapse of governance coupled with corruption allegations rocking the arts agency.
The NAC is an agency of the Department of Arts and Culture. Last year, it was rocked by allegations of financial mismanagement in the R300 million Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP) meant for struggling artists during the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, Linda Mvanana tendered her resignation. She was followed by Dr Sipho Sithole and Dlamini’s deputy, Phumzile Zitumane on Thursday.
Their departure was announced in a meeting.
The latest quandary seems to have been triggered by the legal tussle between former council member Tshepo Mashiane and Dlamini.
Mashiane was told to resign as programme manager: capacity building on his first day of work last month.
NAC lawyers Moodie and Robertson threatened Labour Court action against Mashiane, who now works from home after he was barred from the building. The lawyers told him that a decision on his management post will be finalised only after a meeting with Mthethwa, and proceeded to instruct him to resign.
Questions previously sent to Dlamini inquiring why Mthethwa was being dragged into human resource issues went unanswered.
Weeks later, his lawyer still awaits the NAC to file papers so he can mount a challenge on behalf of Mashiane.
‘Council divided, dysfunctional’
Sources at the NAC say the council is divided, dysfunctional and led by a chairperson who allegedly takes decisions without consulting council members.
Members who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal told The Citizen that illegal decisions were taken without presenting matters before the council for discussions and approval.
“Dlamini is running NAC like its the royal family she comes from…it’s like a spaza shop.”
“Take the Mashiane matter, for example. We found out from the media that lawyers’ letters were sent to Mashiane and signed by acting CEO Mbina-Mthembu, telling him to resign. No one engaged us about instructing lawyers.
“There are many matters that we implemented willy-nilly through by-passing councils, such as the so-called Mzansi Orchestra.
“Nothing was presented to us, but millions in NAC money meant for arts development were paid to that project…this is looting on an industrial scale.”
said the council member.
Another source said the resignations showed that some council members were now jumping ship even though they didn’t speak out against “all the wrong things that took place here.”
“Why are they leaving now? Why did they allow her and the executive to cause such a mess? Weren’t they supposed to reign them in?
“The chairperson has no background in the arts. The department knew but went ahead and appointed her. These are governance failures that should be put at the door of the department,” another source said.
Meanwhile, acting CEO Marion Mbina-Mthembu, who took over after former CEO Rosemary Mangope, has fallen out with Dlamini and is said to have been told that August will be her last month in the job.
Sources said Mbina-Mthembu is also preparing for a legal fight should she be pushed out.
Mbina-Mthembu redirected questions to Dlamini.
Her predecessor Mangope struck a questionable deal with executive management while undergoing disciplinary proceedings over R300 million Covid funds for artists.
NAC’s decision to allow Mangope to leave without being held accountable left members of the Parliament’s arts and culture portfolio committee fuming when management appeared before the committee two months ago.
‘Council functioning well’
When contacted for comment on Wednesday, Dlamini told this journalist that she was being “fed a mouthful of inaccurate information.”
“Who is feeding you these lies? Council is functioning well and taking resolutions that are moving the entity in the right direction.”
She then asked for time until Thursday to respond to a list of questions. But, when contacted again on Thursday, Dlamini said she was at an all-day event that had nothing to do with NAC.
“I am hosting an event with over 400 guests…I want to give you something to write about properly. Because I am the chairperson, I need to sign off answers. The communication team is working on the answers.”
She promised to revert with replies before the end of the day.
Meanwhile, Sithole told The Citizen that he had written to Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, seemingly letting him know that he has quit.
“It is true that I have written to the minister about me continuing or not to serve on the Council. Depending on his acceptance, or not of the reasons provided to him, I remain a council member,” he said in a WhatsApp message.
–Dlamini’s comment will be added when we receive it