Durban – A group of KwaZulu-Natal artists together with event managers, entertainment venue owners, stage and sound people brought the N3 highway to standstill on Wednesday when they blocked the major entry point into the city of Durban demanding the government to open the entertainment industry.
The entertainers in the unlawful strike included L’Vovo, DJ Tira, Zodwa Wabantu, Dladla Mshunqisi and Tizozo. The protest was illegal as it was in contravention of the lockdown regulations, and for that 30 people were arrested and held at Westville police station.
The protesters, dressed in black, complained of difficulties to make ends meet since the shutdown of the entertainment industry in March. The group also said they were tired of surviving on charity and they wanted to make money to take care of themselves and their families.
Meanwhile, Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of SA (CCIFSA) has confirmed the arrests, and said it was organising lawyers to assist.
According CCIFSA president Joy Mbewana, the artists took to the streets to force government to engage with them in the next 10 days. She said artists felt that the relief funds were not enough to pay for their bills and managing their livelihood. Mbewana further said the artists wanted the government to open live events even if attendance was restricted to conform to social distancing rules.
Musician and chair of CCIFFSA in KwaZulu-Natal Tizozo said the artists wanted the government to extend the curfew from 10pm to 12pm.
“We did not know as CCIFSA that artists were embarking on a march, we got to know about as it was happening. I understand that artists decided to join the march which was organised by people owners and events organisers, as well as technical people in sound and lighting. The artists prefers that the president opens the industry and that they will make sure the Covid-19 rules are followed.”
“Artists are tired, they want to make their own money. The R20,000 was not enough to last them for six months. The relief fund is not enough to pay for their cars and houses which are close to be repossessed since they are not working.”
South Africa Music Industry Council (SAMIC) president China Mpololo said they support Operation Vula.
“The principle of opening the sector for musicians to work is important to us because our practitioners and other critical music industry stakeholders have not worked for over 5 months,” Mpololo said.
“Our industry has been on lockdown for too long. We are used to working and taking care of ourselves. We are now reduced to beggars of relief funds that come under unbearable conditions. We have quietly and respectfully watched other sectors opening up while our sectors continues to be marginalised.”
eThekwini municipality mayor Mxolisi Kaunda has condemned what he called “unruly behaviour” by the artists who blocked the N3 freeway, causing disturbance to the traffic flow and inconvenience to road users for more than three hours.
“As the mayor of the city, I wish to denounce the unlawful conduct of blockading of roads to resolve matters. We understand that various sectors and industries have been hard hit economically by the Covid-19 global pandemic but the unruly actions and acts of economic sabotage will not be tolerated.
“And those who go against the law will be brought to book. As government, we are aware that economy is severely strained,” Kaunda said.