Legendary music producer Sello “Chicco” Twala has added fuel to the fire again this week, when he challenged all the artists “to pay back the money” they had received from collecting society, the Music Performance Rights Association (Impra), two years ago.
In 2018, Twala was one of the beneficiaries who received a lump sum for the needletime royalties from Impra which is led by Dodo Monamodi.
The figures were never disclosed publicly.
However, last week, Twala came out guns blazing accusing Monamodi of being a “thug and a bastard” in an aggressive open letter he wrote to three government departments – communication, sports, arts and culture, and trade and industry.
The open letter followed a meeting between the SABC, SA Music Promoters Association (Sampra) and Impra two months ago.
At that meeting, the SABC allegedly reached a consensus with both Impra and Sampra to make payment of R10 million to each, as part of discharging its legal obligation in respect of needletime royalties due to them.
‘I am ready to pay back the money’
On Monday, Twala told City Press: “AKA, myself and other artists who received a lump sum from Impra two years ago, should pay back the money because we did not deserve it, as it was way too much. This was done at the expense of other musicians.”
When Twala was asked if he will pay back the whole amount he received, he said: “The auditing process will determine as to how much we must pay back. Some of the musicians have to pay back the full amount because they were not even played on radio during that period.”
AKA’s manager, Tshiamo Letshwene, said: “We are unable to comment right now until we get an audited report in this regard.”
However, legendary musician Blondie Makhene told City Press that he did not owe anyone anything and believes he received the money he deserved.
“If I took this money fraudulently, send me to jail,” said Makhene.
He said Twala had a right to freedom of speech.
Makhene applauded Impra as the first black-owned collecting society to collect and distribute artists’ needletime royalties in South African history.
‘I am not a clown’
In the mix of the furore, Owen Ndlovu of Michael Owen Productions, also wrote a letter to the Registrar of Copyrights at the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), Kadi Petje, and the SABC on June 15, to lodge a complaint on how Impra had allegedly cheated on his company to get needletime payment which had been paid by the SABC for the airplay of 2014/2015.
“I recorded the music and I am a member of Impra, and when I demanded to know why I was not getting paid, Impra and Dodo said that I am not a member. I got the needletime report from the SABC, but when I took it to Impra, the report was flagged as fraudulent. I am not a clown to be skipped like that,” said Ndlovu.
‘Impra has proper organisational structures in place’
Monamodi said Twala’s defamatory allegations against himself and Impra were baseless.
He said as Impra they had not been approached by its members to refund monies to the collecting society.
“I can confirm that Impra has proper organisational structures in place. During the Covid-19 lockdown, Impra used available means of communication to its members. Impra has been keeping its members up to date with developments,” said Monamodi.
According to Impra’s statement, it pointed out that it was unfortunate that when the SABC effected the payment of R10 million to the collecting society, it did not provide a playlist to cover the period since their last playlist up to date.
On Ndlovu’s claims, Monamodi said that he did not understand what he was talking about.
“SABC’s needletime royalty distributions for the 2014/2015 period are being addressed by arbitration between Impra, Sampra and SABC. Impra denies the allegation that it received payment from SABC ‘under false pretences’. The allegations are defamatory and Ndlovu is not a member of Impra,” said Monamodi.
The CIPC’s spokesperson, Sidwell Medupe, said: “The CIPC is currently reviewing Impra’s accreditation. Impra’s application for renewal has been provisionally refused. Impra still failed to provide the necessary information in its application after the CIPC has provisionally refused the renewal application, and it did not allow [us] to audit its books on how it has distributed the collected monies. The CIPC has requested Impra to show cause, why its objection to be audited should not be a ground to withdraw its license which is expiring this month.”
When approached about what the CIPC stated on the status quo, Monamodi said: “This is a confidential matter between the CIPC and Impra, therefore I cannot comment.”
‘As Sampra we have not received the money’
Sampra CEO Pfanani Leshivha said although they had signed an agreement in May, they have not received the money from the SABC. “Needletime royalties can only be distributed after the distribution plan has been submitted and approved by the registrar of copyright,” said Leshivha.
‘Artists are unable to make income during Covid-19’
Even though Sampra denied that it was not paid R10 million, the SABC sings a different tune on the recent R20 million payout to both collecting societies.
The SABC’s acting spokesperson, Mmoni Seapolelo, said: “The SABC did not establish any specific relief fund intended for the artists, but it was merely fulfilling its obligation to pay needletime royalties to the collecting societies. The decision to speed up the payment was based on the fact that artists are unable to make any income during the Covid-19 coronavirus.”
The SABC also acknowledged having received the letter from Ndlovu. “The SABC rejects the notion that it had favoured Impra over Sampra for the 2014/2015 needletime royalty payment. Ndlovu should direct his concerns to his collecting society, Impra and the registrar of copyright. The SABC challenges Ndlovu to produce evidence to prove the allegations he is making against the corporation to enable the SABC to properly respond to the same,” said Seapolelo.
‘Twala and Monamodi must sort out their disputes’
The spokesperson for the sports, arts and culture ministry, Masechaba Khumalo, said minister Nathi Mthethwa takes corruption allegations very seriously.
“We advise that Twala and Monamodi meet to resolve their disputes. Where there is alleged criminality, the matter in question should be escalated to the relevant law enforcement officials,” she said.