Address by President Jacob Zuma to the report back meeting with performing artists/cultural industry sector

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sandton Convention Centre

Programme Director, Minister Collins Chabane,
Minister of Arts and Culture and all Ministers present,
Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture,
MECs responsible for Arts and Culture,
Esteemed performing artists and cultural industry sector representatives,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning, sanibonani, dumelang!

I am pleased that we have been able to get together for this report back session.

During our first two meetings the time was insufficient for us to interact more intensively.

Our government's objective is to open a conversation with every sector of our society in the country, as an important element of a democratic culture. That is why we say working together we can do more!

The cultural industry sector is a very important partner in our drive to build a social and cultural identity for our nation.

Any foreigner who wants to understand South Africans better is likely to listen to our music, watch our films or television dramas. That is how important you are to the image of this country and its identity.

We initially intended to hold a much bigger meeting with the entire cultural industry, from musicians, actors, crafters, scriptwriters, composers and filmmakers to painters.

However, the time constraints dictated otherwise and we opted for a smaller report-back meeting, primarily to musicians and actors.

The Department of Arts and Culture has indicated to me that it intends to convene a wider industry session next year.

When we met for the first time in November 2008 at Montecasino in Johannesburg, you raised a number of issues that were of concern to you.

More issues were raised during the historic Artists and Sports Legends Manifesto Endorsement gala dinner in Midrand in April this year.

We felt we should not allow too much time to lapse before coming back for a discussion of those issues.

During the April session we also met with sports legends who have their own issues that need attention.

Our Deputy President, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, a soccer veteran, also met the sports legends last year and we will find time to engage this sector further at a later stage.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Government's Medium Term Strategic Framework states that we want to use arts and culture as mechanisms to promote the cultural diversity of our society and for bringing people together.

We want to promote culture, arts and sport in order to consolidate community and national pride, positive social values as well as economic development, including tourism.

We therefore see the arts as a key economic activity, in addition to providing entertainment and promoting cultural diversity and national identity.

The music industry alone has the potential to create employment and wealth. This is through live performances, production and sales of sound recording, royalty collection and administration, manufacturing and sales of music instruments and legal fraternity.

Today I would like to discuss some of the issues and concerns raised at previous sessions. These include inadequate local content in our broadcast products, copyright issues, defining artists as workers, social security, tax problems and the need to fight piracy.

The Creative Workers Union of South Africa and individual artists have raised as a problem, the fact that artists are not recognized as workers.

One artist summed up the scenario as follows: "Creative workers have had to suffer and continue to suffer the consequences of being 'talented and creative'. Because we are not defined as workers by the labour laws of this country, we are exempted from all benefits and rights that 'conventional' workers enjoy. The irony is that when it comes to tax laws, we are taxed as much if not more ''.

The Department of Labour is currently conducting a study within the crafts, film, music and performing arts, to establish whether an employment relationship exists within this industry or not.

In cases where an employment relationship exists, the study aims to determine if those workers do receive the labour legislative benefits and protection that they are entitled to.

Representations we have received from musicians, actors and other artists is that if they were to be defined as workers, it would open the way for them to access basic benefits such as employer subsidized medical aid and pension.
The outcome of the Department's study will provide guidance on the way forward.

A longstanding thorny issue for many artists is the fact that their work does not obtain the desired airplay or broadcast. This denies them much-needed exposure.

Most importantly, it closes the platform to develop and promote local talent and culture.

Through the Department of Communications, government is working on a Local Content Development Strategy, with the intention of increasing local content quotas.

We also want to improve the entrance into the field by emerging writers, particularly from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, including those from outside the main cities and towns.

However, we must also emphasise that the local content we want to promote is not scripts that misrepresent us as the South African people!

Any misrepresentation of our culture for commercial gain is harmful and unacceptable. I need a full day to engage the industry on this matter and my concerns about it!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have heard the requests of our artists for government to assist with the protection of intellectual property rights.

We have classic cases of South African artists being robbed of what is rightfully theirs, for example Linda Nsele and his famous "Mbube" song.

There are lessons to be learnt from how other countries manage this matter. For example, developed countries thrive in particular due to the fact that they introduced the concept of a "collective management of copyright".

This means that musicians and composers establish collecting societies that are accountable to their membership and which are regulated by the State.
In South Africa the industry and the various stakeholders are not properly regulated. We are also concerned that some our artists also appear to be unaware of the laws that regulate their industry.

The Copyright based industry requires stakeholders to master the regulatory framework.

We have a situation where artists even transfer or assign ownership of their copyright to recording companies or collecting societies who make fortunes from this state of affairs.

The only collecting societies that are regulated locally are the ones that collect only for "needle-time" royalty, that is whenever a broadcaster plays the song of a musician, royalties would be paid.

We have been informed that some musicians are lured not to join collecting societies as they are afraid that the standing relationship with recording companies may be strained.

The recording companies need to address this perception that they bully artists and make them sign their livelihoods away.

We strongly urge musicians to form collecting societies in order to strengthen their bargaining

power in controlling the usage of their copyright.

The Department of Trade and Industry is also currently conducting studies on intellectual property which will take us a step further in dealing with this challenge.

The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill that we will be placing before parliament will assist to resolve the problems mentioned.

Piracy, like intellectual property theft, affects the income of many artists. The South African Police in conjunction with the Department of Justice and the DTI are working to stamp out the incidence of piracy in the industry.

Enforcement actions against pirate operations across the country, arrests and convictions are on the increase as a result of joint efforts from these departments.

The South African Revenue Service has also worked hard to combat counterfeiting within the entertainment industry to detect and stop the importation, manufacture and distribution as well as the sale of counterfeit and pirate music and film products.

To date, SARS has seized illicit goods over the value of R13 million.
The Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan, has assured me that SARS will continue its awareness programmes to educate artists on their tax obligations, thereby also encouraging compliance.

This will include offering assistance with the completion of income tax returns and also by combating copyright infringement. Artists should use this opportunity to become compliant and prevent problems.

Ladies and gentlemen, the situation of many artists who end up in severe difficulties in their old age or illness has been continuously brought to government's attention.

I have been advised that discussions are continuing through the Creative Workers Union of South Africa, to finalise an affordable social security product for the entertainment industry as a whole.

Government, through the Department of Arts and Culture, will monitor the discussions that the union is having with the private sector as the lack of security for artists is of great concern.

Esteemed artists, ladies and gentlemen, government can play its part, but there is a lot of work that must be done by artists and the private sector to improve working conditions in the industry.

We would like to urge artists to unite.

It makes it difficult to work with the sector as there is no single structure that government should work with. Unity will also enable artists to engage the industry, especially recording company to discuss desired transformation.

We know that this sector is very individualistic, but working as individuals will not improve your bargaining power.

All the issues we have raised which require further work, necessitate the existence of an organized formation. We will therefore keep on reminding you about this need to organize yourselves.

We have touched on just a few issues here. Amongst other matters that require further attention is skills development, especially in publishing, composition, promotion, script development, collecting societies, management, as well as policy development amongst others.

In terms of future growth, we want to see the development of the rural cultural industry sector, for example traditional music composers, performers, crafters and painters. This is in line with the new intensified focus on rural development.
Artists need not be forced by lack of opportunities and programmes in their areas of origin to come to Johannesburg just to try their luck.

We have sent the potential of the rural music sector given the success of maskandi artists and others.

We also want to see a concerted effort by the industry to support youth development. Our youth must be encouraged to stay in school and institutions of higher learning, and not abandon education for the industry.

If they join the industry after qualifying in their studies they will be able to contribute to the growth and development of our performing arts sector as we will then have the much-needed skills.

We urge those who are already in the field to use whatever time available to study. It is never too late to arm yourselves with education.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you are aware, the staging of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa offers us a rare opportunity to showcase the country's cultural diversity and to celebrate our sense of South Africanness and Africanness.

The role of the cultural industry sector is not only confined to 2010 FIFA World Cup events only.

There are opportunities for our performing and visual artists to tell our stories through song, dance, fashion, design and visual arts.

A key event is the hosting of the FIFA Final Draw on 4 December in Cape Town.

The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the World Cup also offer an opportunity to showcase our performing and visual arts as an expression of our national identity. I am sure that you are in discussions with the Department of Arts and Culture with regards to your participation in this coming spectacular African experience.

Compatriots,

For our young democracy to continue to grow, our artists must play their constructive critical role in informing society and invoking debate through their beautiful works.

The cultural industry must prove, just like sports that it can be a sustainable form of making a living.

We must prove that this industry can continue to produce legends such as Miriam Makeba, Busi Mhlongo, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Caiphus Semenya and a host of others.

Working together we can do more to achieve these goals. However, we will achieve them more if artists unite and give government an organized structure to work with.

Once again I am very pleased that I have been able to meet you again.

As you can see we take a holistic view to the development of this sector, which is why we have included various Ministries in our delegation and input. Through the Department of Arts and Culture as the lead department, you will be able to source resources and knowledge within government, to take the development of our arts forward.

Let me take this opportunity to thank all the artists who worked with us during the election campaign last year! We really appreciated your support.

We must now all work together to implement the goal of achieving a better life for all.

I thank you.

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