Recently, the Namibian Society of Composers and Authors of Music (NASCAM) CEO, John Max, said there will be a Covid-19 relief payment towards musicians, as the majority did not benefit from the first fund that was availed through the National Arts Council of Namibia to assist them during the Covid-19 crisis.
As things stand, no progress has been made in this regard, while the funds sit idle in governments coffers. Max told VIBEZ! they have engaged with the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture to motivate sources of funding from the Ministry of Finance for relief funding to musicians that have been heavily affected by the Covid-19 restrictions. “The Covid-19 restrictions have never been relaxed since the ban of live music performances and this has affected the majority of musicians in the country. We were told that the funds are available, and the Ministry of Finance will conduct verification on the list that was provided to them; this verification will be determined by those who had received the Emergency Income Grant of N$750 and those who did not” he stressed.
Max informed this publication that some songwriters met at NASCAM last week and discussed that matter, of which they decided to write a letter to the Executive Director of Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, Sannet Steenkamp.
“They requested the ministry to pay out the relief funds as per the songwriters’ list provided to the minister without verification. The songwriters indicated that if they are not treated fair in this matter, they will source other options to see how the government should listen to their request. They also stated that they have been waiting for the verification for too long.”
On their part, NASCAM initiated the whole process to provide relief funding to artists during the pandemic. They have also provided all information the ministry requested them to hand in, which was followed by a number of meetings and communications back and forth.
“As head of the organisation, I have been flooded with calls, SMSes, WhatsApps and emails from elderly and young songwriters who want to know if there will be any relief funding towards them; this situation has had an emotional touch, and it hurts to hear their concerns. We wrote a letter to the Ministry of Finance as Head of the Economic Committee to motivate a little relaxation on the Covid-19 restriction on the live music events, but we were never responded to date. Some of the businesses have been given operational relaxation on the restrictions, while the entertainment business (music) was not treated fair since the Covid-19 restrictions were adopted 13 months ago. This is not fair; we never heard any committee was set up to provide options or ideas,” he expressed.
Steenkamp responded to the letter they received by stating the funds were availed to the ministry for disbursement. “An amount of only N$150 000 is available for disbursement to musicians, provided a formal application is tendered through the Directorate of Arts. The application must specifically cater for income-generating activities that fall within the mandate of the Ministry of Arts and Culture. The Ministry of Finance is mandated to disburse funding for special initiatives, such as the Covid-19 Relief Fund. You are thus advised to inform members of NASCAM; the Ministry of Arts and Culture is not mandated in this regard,” it read. Max further added that the first quarter of the year 2021 is already gone with no improvements in their sector. “Yes our songwriters are still creating music but they are not making money or a living as restrictions hamper them. Therefore we are requesting the Covid-19 Committee to relook these strict measures they have imposed on the creative industry.”