16 April 2019

South Africa: Minister Nathi Mthethwa - Press Briefing On Artists' Response and Programme of Solidarity Towards Victims of Cyclone Idai

press release

Address by Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa on the occasion of the Press Briefing on Artists' Response and Programme of Solidarity Towards Victims of Cyclone Idai

Programme Director,

The Artists, Musicians and Composers present here,

Members of the Living Legends Legacy Programme,

The representatives in their entirety of the Creative Industries that I am Proud to Call My Stakeholders as the Minister of Arts and Culture,

Members of the Media.

As of Friday, the 12th of April 2019, Cyclone Idai had cut a deadly swathe through Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and the World Bank currently estimates the damage and repair thereof at these three countries at a cost of TWO BILLION US DOLLARS.

This estimate is for recovery costs for the infrastructure and livelihood impacts.

To date, above the one thousand lives lost, about three million people have been affected, with near total damage in the worst affected areas.

By way of background, I beg your indulgence in once more reminding you that Idai slammed into the Mozambican port city of Beira on March 14 then continued a deadly path westward towards Zimbabwe and Malawi, leaving a trail of devastating destruction in its wake.

In Mozambique alone, more than 600 people died among the 1.5 million people affected.

About 344 have been killed in Zimbabwe.

Southern Malawi was also drowned in heavy rainfall in an earlier phase of the storm, killing 59.

The purpose of this press briefing is to announce the involvement of the Department of Arts and Culture in aid of survivors of the devastating Cyclone Idai that hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

We are gathered here today following almost three weeks of consultation between the Department of Arts and Culture and its stakeholders. The three weeks that have preceded this day came a week after the world came to fully grasp the impact of the natural disaster that is Cyclone Idai on Southern Africa.

The dastardly destructive natural phenomenon that is now known as "Tropical Cyclone Idai" is one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect Africa and the Southern Hemisphere. The long-lived storm caused catastrophic damage in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, leaving more than 1,000 people dead and thousands more missing.

It is while rescue teams tallied the numbers of fatalities, and images of the incredible upheaval in the lives of the survivors, that I realised that, while it is impossible for us to stop natural disasters, collectively we hold the power to present ourselves as a united front in support of those who survive these.

Survivors in mourning...

Survivors who require us to embrace them as a people joined in common identity of being Africans...

Survivors who need to witness the African community rise up in embracing and uplifting them in their time of distress and need...

Survivors who need to experience Humanity that demonstrates beyond mere words of condolences and comfort that it is ready to stand with the afflicted in helping them rebuild and restore some semblance of normalcy despite the lives lost and living rendered in tatters in the face of tragedy.

It is on this basis, that I issued a clarion call to the artists present here today, and many more who have pledged allegiance to this cause, to join the Department of Arts and Culture in organising a series of programmes for the benefit of the victims of Cyclone Idai.

Gathered here today are the artists who have heeded the call to come bearing not just aid in the form of non-perishable foods and money, but their unquantifiable contributions in the form of their creativity and art that will surely count for much for those this is intended for.

In this regard, the topics of discussion you will be presented with today, as the esteemed members of the Fourth Estate, in whom we entrust the messages to be broadcast and disseminated from Cape to Cairo: Is that South African Artists have heeded my call, and they are here today to say to not only the countries devastated by Cyclone Idai, but the continent at large, that here in South Africa, we live by "UBUNTU", and while we are here, while we can lend a hand, we will do exactly that.

Members of the press, today you will hear of the ideas we have discussed thus far, which we will be implementing as of this day. These ideas include a Benefit Concert to be held during the month of May. The artists involved in that benefit concert will be participating to show solidarity with fellow Afrikans and give back to the same Afrikan communities that have loved and supported them throughout their careers.

Together with the artists gathered here today we have discussed short-term, mid-term, and long term goals of what this "Solidarity With Victims of Cyclone Idai" will entail, and I will leave it to them to explain further.

But allow me to state that ours is not a plan that is a once-off event in the form of a benefit concert: The benefit concert is a short-term goal in response to the urgent need RIGHT NOW.

The partners involved have been on the ground since the cyclone hit and have done a great job. Donations of food, clothing, water, water purifiers, medical supplies, utensils and cash for other incidentals are still desperately needed, hence the concert.

However, the mid-term and long-term goals entail ensuring pledges coming from artists of different sectors, as well as the cultural and sporting fraternities to help rebuild the communities; something that will take a long time.

The DAC and #AfrikanArtists4CycloneIdaiAid are working on an aid tour with artists and media, where those involved in this project will get to lend a hand on the ground by rolling up their sleeves and help distribute aid and rebuild communities.

The DAC is also committing to the long term goal of a series of art, culture and heritage events planned over the next six months ending in September that will be staged to continue raise funds. The after-effects of Cyclone Idai will continue for a very long time, and the DAC and #AfrikanArtists4CycloneIdaiAid are committed to help for as long as possible.

I now wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to the artists present here today, for heeding the call to show up and support the victims of Cyclone Idai. It is at times like these when we prove to the world that as Africans, we are the originators of the concept of "UBUNTU", which means "I AM BECAUSE YOU ARE." Put differently, what affects the sons and daughters of Africa affects us all, and it is therefore incumbent on us all to be inward-looking in seeking solutions to what afflicts us and find solutions by us, from us, and for us.

In closing, allow me to quote words I came across some years ago... Words uttered by an American artist who briefly once called South Africa home a few years ago and whose name escapes me at this particular juncture.

That artist said words that ring especially true in what has been and will be achieved beyond this occasion and I QUOTE: "AFRICAN ART IS FUNCTIONAL, IT SERVES A PURPOSE. IT'S NOT A DORMANT. IT'S NOT A MEANS TO COLLECT THE LARGEST CHEERING SECTION. IT SHOULD BE HEALING, A SOURCE A JOY."

Programme Director, I now hand over to you to dispense of your duties to hand over the podium to the artists present here today: Artists who not only present South Africa's finest across generations, but artists from the continent at large as well as afar as the Afro-Caribbean region.

I thank you.

Issued by: Department of Arts and Culture

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