After a year of little to no activity in the live events industry, thanks to the Covid-19 lockdowns, many professionals in the field feel that not enough is being done to support them. And yet, while things are moving slowly – and certainly too slowly for the many businesses that have sadly had to close – progress is being made.

Last week, the Technical and Production Services Association (TPSA), a special interest group within the Southern African Communications Industries Association (SACIA), gave an update on what they have been doing and achieving during the past year. Here is a recap.

New committee members

TPSA chair Sharif Baker introduced the newest TPSA council members, who are: Langa Mancunga, Gary Sam, Hendrick Nemalili and Trevor Mojela. They join him and the other existing council members David Leverington, Dave Tudor and Grant Faiers.

DSAC’s Transformation Forum

A diverse group of industry representatives have been tasked by the Department of Sport, Arts & Culture (DSAC) to develop a BEE scorecard for the technical production and live events industry. They are meeting weekly with DSAC to achieve this, as it has been identified as a priority project. The aim is to have it ready by the end of July.

Members of the task team include: Oupa Salamani (Jazz Foundation) – Chair, Kevan Jones (SACIA) – Vice Chair, Glenton de Kock (SAACI), China Mpololo (SAMPA), Freddie Nyathela (SA Roadies Association), Sue Gannon (CEPA), Janet Landey (IFEA Africa), Gabi Le Roux (TUMSA), Lee-Anne Alder (EXSA) and Quintin Fredericks (IPO).

The development of spectator safety guidelines

Last year, the Event Safety Council (ESC), another special interest group within SACIA, developed Re-Opening Guidelines for the live events industry. Mike Lord, Interim-Chair of ESC, shared that DSAC and SASCOC (the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) have subsequently requested that these guidelines be adapted to create spectator guidelines for live sporting events, such as the upcoming British Lions Tour. The ESC has done this, and even presented the new guidelines to NATJOINTS – the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure which coordinates all security and law enforcement operations throughout the country.

An objective of everyone involved is to be able to safely remove the maximum spectator limit at these events, so that venues can be progressively filled to 50% of capacity without any additional restrictions. To do this, Mike shared that enhanced screening is required with rapid testing being proposed as a popular solution. “This is the only way we can see (as global test events prove) that allows everyone attending an event to know their status and to ensure those that may be asymptomatic are not allowed to attend the event, thus potentially eliminating the spread of the virus,” he said.

Rapid testing does carry a cost implication, but funding options are being explored, he added.

The Director General has requested the spectator guidelines be expanded beyond sporting events, to include guidelines for all live events.

Promisingly, the Director General has requested the spectator guidelines be expanded beyond sporting events, to include guidelines for all live events – from shows at the theatre, entertainment and cultural events to business exhibitions and church congregations, and so on. This can be easily done, he added, as prevention control principals are the same across the different formats.

READ: SA’s Tourism Sector Recovery Plan has been approved

Ministerial Advisory Team

In March, SACIA chair Sharif Baker was appointed to the DSAC Ministerial Advisory Team (MAT) to help the department find amicable solutions for the professionals who work in their sector. He explained that DSAC and the MAT have been engaging with each other continuously, over weekends and late at night, and that progress is being made. Some of their latest achievements include the following:

People who work in the cultural and creative sectors, and who can prove that they have been unable to work during lockdown, will be exempt from paying primary and secondary government schools fees in 2020 and 2021.

  • School fees: One of the MAT workstreams has been engaging with the Department of Basic Education and has established an agreement that people who work in the cultural and creative sectors, and who can prove that they have been unable to work during lockdown, will be exempt from paying primary and secondary government schools fees in 2020 and 2021. (Unfortunately, this does not apply to private and independent schools, which are all run as business with their own set of rules and expectations.) A formal announcement will be made on this soon.
  • Evictions: Another MAT workstream has been meeting with the Department of Human Settlements and can confirm that, under the existing Disaster Management Act, no one can be evicted for not paying their rent. The only exception to this is if there are mitigating circumstances and a court order which rules in favour of an eviction. Sharif added that he knows of three such court orders which involved people from the live events sector, and in all three cases the eviction request was denied.

Clarity around workman’s compensation

Sharif noted that many TPSA members had been enquiring about workman’s compensation. He reassured everyone that a 12-month payment arrangement is now available, for which you will receive a monthly letter of good standing. The letter will be for the month of payment only, and it’s important to know these letters are manually sent which can take time. A full payment allows for a letter covering the year, and which can be obtained online.

An update on UIF TERS

The delay in the extended UIF TERS benefits have been, in part, caused by fraudulent claims which have created the need for more checks to be put in place. One of these is the use of SIC, or standard industrial classification, codes. Unfortunately, many businesses have been using the wrong SIC codes, which caused their applications to be thrown out.

READ: TBCSA delivers UIF TERS update

This has subsequently been resolved, but applicants are now also requested to submit a portfolio of evidence that they are from the sector. Membership of a professional body like SACIA and TPSA can be used for this, as well as documentation from SARS that shows your coding is from the events industry. Kevan Jones, Executive Director of SACIA, acknowledged that many people are unable to pay membership fees at this stage, but SACIA will gladly supply a letter confirming their professional affiliation to anyone who had been a member of the association in the past few years.

SACIA will gladly supply a letter confirming their professional affiliation to anyone who had been a member of the association in the past few years.

Financial relief on the horizon

Sharif shared that SACIA has been engaging with SARS (South African Revenue Service) and COGTA (Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs) to provide tax relief to this sector. It is a complicated process, as it requires legislative changes and must go through National Treasury. However, they are working towards the goal of halting output tax for the next 12-24 months for this sector, as well as the 12-month period post-pandemic as the sector starts to rebuild itself.

Another initiative with the Banking Association South Africa is to create a relief fund to service the interest on people’s loans, both business and personal. This money will be placed in a fruit bearing account, and will not need to be paid back, as this would have serious debt implications. However, the expectation is that this benefit will only be available for members of professional associations such as TPSA.

The MAT is also engaging with the corporate world to put together a fund to help the technical and creative sector, with the aim of securing R1 billion for it.

The MAT is also engaging with the corporate world to put together a fund to help the technical and creative sector, with the aim of securing R1 billion for it. It is also in discussions with the telecommunications sector to secure some free network coverage for those in the sector, to help them access work opportunities, financial aid and other forms of support needed during this time.

New professional competencies

As TPSA members have moved from more traditional roles into the virtual events space, SACIA has decided to add live streaming and virtual events as a competency for individuals applying for its TLE (Theatre & Live Event) professional designations. A task team is busy working on this and aims to have it ready by the middle of May.

Wellness needs to be prioritised

The MAT is also working on a wellness programme to help those in the sector obtain both business and personal wellness. Sharif noted that this is especially critical in terms of mental health. SADAG has revealed that there are 23 suicides a day in South Africa, as well as 450 attempts. While this is not sector specific, Sharif encouraged everyone to take this seriously and get involved, and make sure they are looking after their and their colleagues’ wellbeing.

You can watch the full recording of this event here: