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Opera singer Sibongile Mngoma vows to protest again if Arts Minister Mthethwa is not removed

Johannesburg – After spending several days sleeping outside government offices in Pretoria, opera singer Sibongile Mngoma says she will do it again if Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa is not removed.

Mngoma and several artists spent a number of days camping outside the Department of Arts and Culture offices in Pretoria in protest against the ill treatment of artists by the Ministry of Arts and Culture.

Mngoma is now home but said she had to sleep outside to stand up for artists.

She told The Star that she had seen “horrific and weird things” while sleeping on the street but it was worth the trouble.

Some people who saw the songstress sleeping on the streets offered her food and shelter. The opera singer said she had to explain that she was not sleeping outside because she did not have shelter, but as a protest to remove Nathi Mthethwa.

“People brought me food and we had power banks, we were prepared for any eventuality. There are interesting things that you see at night.

’’You get drug addicts and drunk people, you get your rogue foreign people. Then you get people who would offer you food and a place to stay,” Mngoma said.

Mngoma and other artists have been complaining about the poor treatment that the arts industry has been receiving throughout the pandemic.

’’Most actors and musicians have been without income since the beginning of the first lockdown last year.

The pandemic has affected their gigs and bookings, leaving some artists broke and unable to pay their living expenses. There have also been complaints about relief meant for artists.

“I would not do something that was not worth it. We are struggling to get attention from a department that has been ignoring us for 19 months. We are trying to make sure that the plight of artists is highlighted,” she said.

Mngoma was able to meet with officials of the Department of Arts and Culture on Monday. There will be another follow-up meeting next week.

“They will tell us on Monday where Nathi Mthethwa’s resignation is. I am not going to let this go.

’’If I have to go back, I will. If he thinks we don’t have power to remove him, we can. Come hell or high waters,” the songstress said.

Mngoma said the arts industry was grateful for level 1 lockdown because at least it had allowed for artists to start working again.

“This is the right time for artists to pick themselves up. What people are missing is that before lockdown artists were making money independent of the government.

’’We are not asking for grants, we are asking for enablement. We need some kind of injection for us to start,” she said.

Kwaito star Eugene Mthethwa has also been part of numerous protests against the Department of Arts and Culture and its agencies.

’’He said he had lost confidence in the government to defend the livelihood of artists. He said even the president of the country had snubbed artists.

"When we say enough is enough, no one feels the pain because of its artists. Why should artists not be taken seriously? These protests will go on until we are heard,“ Mthethwa said.

The Star made several attempts to reach the Arts and Culture department but had no luck getting a comment.

The Star