Gerda Moolman, MPL
DA Northern Cape: Spokesperson of Agriculture
072 120 6142
The Democratic Alliance has reported the Northern Cape Tourism Authority (NCTA), as well as the Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture to the Public Protector for the continued funding of the defunct Apollo Development Agency in Victoria West, and for dereliction of duty in terms of protecting a South African cultural landmark.
In August this year, the DA highlighted the fact that equipment belonging to the Apollo Theatre was to be auctioned off to pay for the outstanding dental fees to the approximate value of R1000, of the Chief Executive Officer and sole employee of the Apollo Development Association, Petrus Martins. The DA expressed outrage at the fact that the future of a national landmark of international acclaim had come to this. In response to our outcry, the HOD of the Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Faisel Aysen, promised to personally pay off the debt in order to prevent projectors and chairs from being sold. The auction was called off and it appeared that the theatre’s equipment had been spared.
By mid-September, however, it came to light that the department had still done nothing to save the cultural legacy of the Apollo Theatre and its popular film festival. At the same time, promises to host a film festival in Victoria West in September had not materialized. The DA highlighted the matter in the public domain, but to no avail.
Determined to pursue the matter, the DA raised the matter with the Northern Cape Tourism Authority (NCTA) during a legislature portfolio committee in which it came to light that the NCTA has persisted in transferring money to the agency, in spite of the fact that the agency has failed to perform its key function, namely hosting the annual world renowned Apollo film Festival, since 2009.
Now another bombshell has fallen, namely that the auction initially scheduled for August, is to take place on 14 December 2012, as the outstanding dental fees of Mr Martins have still not been paid!
The DA is of the view that the entire saga pertaining to the future of the Apollo Theatre is both tremendously sad and enormously infuriating. The Apollo Theater is the only Art Deco period theatre in the southern hemisphere. Up until 2009, it was world famous for playing host to an annual film festival. Once a year, Victoria West came to life with well known personalities in the film industry gracing the town to attend premier film screenings by new and upcoming filmmakers, the economy in turn receiving a welcome boost. The theatre also served as a base from which youth were instructed in IT, catering, construction, masonry and the arts. But now this is all in the past and the Apollo Theatre stands neglected and forgotten, as do the people of Victoria West.
The DA is firmly of the belief that those responsible for the demise of the Apollo Theatre, the termination of the annual Apollo Film Festival and the correlated decline in the local economy of Victoria West, which is being felt by local businesses such as guest houses, and of course local citizens who have lost their jobs as a direct result, must be held accountable.
Our government has increasingly placed important initiatives, which have the potential to significantly boost the economy, in the hands of incompetent cadres, instead of ensuring that competent and qualified people take the reigns. The outcome of this is tragic and the impact is felt by all, in this case the entire community of Victoria West and also the film industry. It is a disgrace that provincial government is allowing a valuable part of the Northern Cape’s cultural and artistic heritage to be obliterated via blatant mismanagement and what appears to be disinterest on the part of the department.
The NCTA must answer for its continued blind funding of the Apollo Development Agency. How can they possibly justify transferring public funds to a one man entity that has done nothing for the past three years, except to send a once well run cultural landmark to its knees? Clearly they have not conducted oversight of the theatre or the festival for years, because if they had, they would have realized that they have been pumping taxpayer’s money into an entity and a festival that by and large now only exists in name. Alternatively, they are well aware of the agency’s non-performance but, true to the attitude of the ruling party, they have chosen to continue reinforcing the ill-advised policy of cadreship, by rewarding undeserving ANC loyalists with public money. Either way, the NCTA is guilty of financial mismanagement, and must be brought to book.
In the same vein, the Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture is guilty of farcically promoting and protecting our cultural heritage without providing any physical oversight, support, and defense of the Apollo Theatre. They too must account for their failures.
We hope and trust that the Public Protector will intervene in this tragic situation before more taxpayer’s money is wasted, and before a valuable chunk of the province’s heritage disappears forever.