We did not withhold funds for Mandela play – Lotteries board

2014-05-27 13:42

The National Lotteries board has denied withholding a grant for a stage play about the life of former president Nelson Mandela.

“On May 26, an e-mail was sent to the organisers confirming that payment would be made on that very same day. The payment was made within three working days of receiving the signed grant agreement,” board spokesperson Sershan Naidoo said today.

“The Lotteries board is therefore concerned that there are media reports that the opera had to be cancelled because of non-payment of the grant.”

The French news agency AFP reported yesterday that the play titled Madiba: The African Opera premiered on Friday at the State Theatre in Pretoria but was forced to close three days later when it ran out of money to pay performers.

The opera, which tells the story of the anti-apartheid icon’s early life, was supposed to be moved from Pretoria to Mandela’s childhood village and final resting place in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

It was then expected to tour South Africa before heading overseas.

Unathi Mtirara, who is also Mandela’s grandnephew, said: “We are still waiting for them to pay. We couldn’t continue, pending that deal.”

Naidoo said an amount of R2.86 million was paid yesterday.

“When the grant agreement was finalised on May 21, two days before the premiere of the opera, the board had to follow its routine compliance and verification processes before transferring the funds,” he said.

The original grant application for the play was R11.8 million, and the Lotteries board awarded R2.86 million.

Naidoo said the board was not in a position to fund the entire amount because of a limited budget.

The budget for funding to welfare, sports, recreation, arts, culture, heritage and environmental groups was R2 billion a year, he said.

“In the last call for applications, the board received 14 400 applications requesting R40 billion,” he said.

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