Defend Truth


Politics, patronage and a front organisation delay vital copyright reform


Jack Devnarain is a veteran actor and chairman of the South African Guild of Actors. Jack started his acting career in Durban while completing his undergraduate law degree at UKZN, and served as a policeman for nearly 10 years before pursuing his career as a professional actor. He has won several awards for his work on TV and is a vocal activist for actors’ working rights and fair regulation of the creative industry.

The issue of copyright reform has major long-term consequences for the creative sector, and shutting down the industry is no substitute for rational minds engaging in mature debate.

The debate on copyright reform rages on, and while Parliament remains “ground zero” in the war between those factions in favour of the Copyright Amendment Bill and those against, it is by no means the only battleground. 

The most evocative skirmishes are the ones that play out in the media and on social media, where catchy hashtags are the weapons of choice.

#SigntheBills is pitted against #KilltheBills, and the media loves the engaging content it prompts.

All was going well until Friday, 25 August, when the Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa (CCIFSA) unleashed its #NationalShutdownMarch – and it all took a turn for the bizarre. 

The Federation

So who is CCIFSA and how are they relevant to the debate on the bills?

Established in 2014 by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, CCIFSA immediately claimed dominion over the entire creative sector. 

They cocked a leg to mark their territory, and their boundary lines just happened to include every creative practitioner (writer, actor, composer, bead-maker etc), whether anyone liked it or not. 

They even claimed a mandate over well-established industry bodies that pre-existed CCIFSA, but that was of little consequence – this federation was ordained by the Minister of Flagpoles (Nathi Mthethwa) himself. 

Neither did it matter that CCIFSA had nothing of value to remedy the ailing sector that was, and still is, riddled with unfair exploitation, one-sided freelance contracts, gatekeeping and the outright denial of fair royalties for actors. 

It just mattered that the ANC-led government had established another feeding trough for artists willing to pledge their loyalty to the governing party. 

From the outset, it was clear that CCIFSA was positioned as a quasi-political movement to mobilise support for the ANC and its leading figures.

Former CCIFSA president, actor Tony Kgoroge, was particularly vocal in his support for disgraced SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and led CCIFSA’s campaign to support the “organic intellectual” with a cheerleader project they called #HandsoffHlaudi. 

But Motsoeneng did little to help his cause. He infamously spent lavish amounts of SABC money on himself and a list of outlandish events. 

One of the more notable among those was the failed 2016 “Thank You SABC” music concert that “People’s Poet” Mzwakhe Mbuli proclaimed, in his inimitable patriotic fervour, should be entered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first music concert of its kind hosted by a broadcaster to congratulate itself.

Kgoroge may yet be called to account for his term of office as CCIFSA president, as the Special Investigating Unit is currently probing his role in a R12-million sponsorship of the Usiba Creative and Cultural Industries Awards.

The R12-million splurge is just the tip of the iceberg, according to the Public Protector’s report of 27 February 2022

The relationship of patronage between the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and CCIFSA goes back to the federation’s elective conference in 2014 and suggests that the department had purpose-built CCIFSA to distribute largesse using methods that unlawfully circumvent the Public Finance Management Act and National Treasury regulations. 

In a briefing of the portfolio committee on sport, arts and culture, the Public Protector’s report of 29 August 2023 paints a damning picture of an estimated R95-million paid by the department for various projects that seemed to lack reasonable justification.

As an example, the Public Protector’s report confirms that the department allocated an astonishing R36-million to Ladysmith Black Mambazo over three years to fund their teaching of traditional music, and to record a “struggle song” album with former president Jacob Zuma.

Read more in Daily Maverick: New copyright bill will take SA into the 21st century at last 

The department remains CCIFSA’s only funder, to the tune of R5-million annually, but nobody seems to know how the federation spends this money.  

Its operations and deliverables are shrouded in mystery, as are its financial reports. There are new office bearers for 2023, but nobody seems to know by what electoral system they took office.

There is a CCIFSA website, with the federation’s corporate identity in colours that bear a remarkable resemblance to those of the ANC. Curiously, nothing on the website reveals anything about the federation, and none of the links lead anywhere. 

Closing discussion

CCIFSA’s governance issues aside, it is ironic that for all the federation’s fiery rhetoric and threats to “shut down the industry”, there is no record of CCIFSA ever making a formal submission in opposition to the Copyright Amendment Bill since Parliament adopted the bill in 2017. 

Perhaps it is unfair to expect this government-funded federation to engage in the democratic process, but why then would CCIFSA seek to subvert it?

When the National Council of Provinces initiated its stakeholder engagement process to discuss the Copyright Amendment Bill, and linked the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill in the first quarter of 2023, all provinces participated by hosting live workshops on the bills.

Members of CCIFSA’s KwaZulu-Natal branch made a point of attending the workshop hosted by the eThekwini region on 30 March 2023 and shouted down every speaker, including representatives of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) – the department that sponsored the bills. 

The workshop was eventually abandoned because CCIFSA refused to let people ask questions about the bills or to have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the issue of copyright reform.

People attended the workshop in good faith, but the event failed to achieve its objectives. CCIFSA made sure of that.

In this context, it is immaterial if people support the bills or reject them. What is important is for this democratic process to be exercised in a manner that is open, free and fair. 

CCIFSA’s disruption of the event is unacceptable and should be condemned. 

For this federation to now attempt to “shut down” the industry it claims to represent in its entirety, is both bizarre and irrational.

Read more in Daily Maverick:  A sea of red herrings: Addressing efforts to delay urgent copyright reform in SA

CCIFSA and its sponsor, the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, have a lot of explaining to do. 

CCIFSA in particular should tone down its rhetoric and start explaining how it spends the money gifted to it by the South African taxpayer. 

The issue of copyright reform has major long-term consequences for the sector, and shutting down the industry is no substitute for rational minds engaging in mature debate. 

The presence of the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) at the “National Shutdown” march was a surprise. As a member of the South African Screen Federation, the IPO claims to support initiatives to generate production work in the sector. 

In fact, its own members attended a briefing by the DTIC on 1 September 2023 (just six days after the “National Shutdown” march) on the department’s programme to establish “an enabling environment for positive engagement and accessibility”. 

One wonders if the IPO has taken time to consider this irony. Or perhaps, its own hypocrisy.

If the #Nationalshutdown march was anything to go by, it would seem there is little hope for the industry to be taken seriously at any meaningful level.

CCIFSA and its bedfellows, including the Southern African Music Rights Organisation and the IPO, have achieved an ingenious new way of inflicting self-sabotage, and all I can be grateful for is that they have probably done their own case against the bills more harm than good. DM


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