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Court Rules in Favour of National Arts Festival’s Claim Against the NAC

Published on 21 June 2021

A still from ICU in Corona Unit, a piece curated and directed by Mandisi Sindo of KASI RC for the project Here My Dear - a collection of works created by artists under the facilitation of the National Arts Festival from the PESP funding grant.
National Arts Festival CEO, Monica Newton.

The Gauteng South High Court has ruled in favour of the National Arts Festival for the balance of the sum that was carried over for consideration from a court ruling in late March 2021 when the National Arts Festival Grahamstown NPC took the National Arts Council (NAC) to court. The claim was for payment of R8 million awarded to the company that runs the National Arts Festival as part of the NAC-managed Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme. The funds were intended for a range of projects administered by the National Arts Festival Grahamstown NPC; creating over 440 jobs and stimulating much needed income-generating activity in the arts sector.

In his judgement on 21 June 2021, Judge Colin Lamont found that the conduct of the NAC “… in unilaterally reducing the contractual amount at a point at which the time for payment of the first amount of funding had passed, and a mere two weeks before the project completion date, is accordingly unlawful and irrational,” and ruled that the NAC would need to pay the remainder of the promised R 8 million to the National Arts Festival immediately. Costs of both the hearing at the end of March 2021 and that on 31 May 2021 were also awarded in favour the NAF, including the costs of two counsel.

National Arts Festival CEO Monica Newton said that the Festival was very pleased with the outcome, “It has been an incredibly tough eighteen months for artists and the PESP funded projects were meant to be a welcome relief. Instead of finding themselves with paid work, many artists, who were already struggling to pay their bills, found themselves out of pocket when the NAC reneged on its contractual obligations to us. We hope that the NAC recognises the validity of the judgment so that these projects can do what they were designed to; support the arts, creatives, technicians and artists at a time of dire need.”

Newton also hoped that this ruling would create a precedent for other artists who were similarly affected by contracts not honoured by the NAC. “We realise we have been incredibly lucky to be in a position where we were able to make a legal stand but we hope that this outcome will allow others to follow through with their own claims and submit these findings to strengthen their cases. We hope it signals a turning point for governance and accountability in the arts, and assists in ensuring artists get what they were legally contracted for and are entitled to.”