Commission to probe SA artists' woes

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pretoria - The plight of South Africa's exploited musicians and artists - many of whom reportedly end up dying bankrupt - has spurred government to roll up its sleeves and get involved.

Department of Trade and Industry (dti) Deputy Minister, Thandi Tobias-Pokolo, on Thursday announced the establishment of a Copyright Review Commission to address sweeping allegations that artists were being short changed of their royalties by unscrupulous agents.

The commission, to be headed by retired Supreme Court of Appeal, Judge Ian Farlam, is to investigate the state of the country's music industry in relation to the distribution of royalties to artists, issues of copyright holding and how legislation could be best used to protect those in the entertainment industry. It will consist of a mix of individuals, including academics and those involved in the industry.

"Many things are happening to our artists. We know the story of Brenda Fassie's affairs, which is now in front of the courts...we know Baby Jake Matlala, who apparently cannot pay for his medical bills. Having assessed the allegations, we felt a need to appoint a commission to look at the matters affecting artists," Tobias-Poloko said.

Despite eraning millions of rands in boxing, Matlala is reportedly financially down and out. He is currently fighting for his life in hospital after being diagnosed with double pneumonia.

Other South African artists who died with allegedly a zero bank balance include legendary Afro-Jazz musician, Stompie Mavi and well-known maskandi singers Jabu Khanyile and Mahlathini, to name but a few.

Fassie's son, on the other hand, is embroiled in a legal showdown with a music promoter over the late singer's royalties.

Tobias-Poloko said the fact that artists died poor remained a concern that needed to be addressed urgently.

Earlier this year, President Jacob Zuma also met with a group of artists in Johannesburg where he raised similar concerns.

The commission is expected to begin its work in January with its recommendations to be tabled in June.