Eastern Cape artist reeling from effects of coronavirus

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Artists from across the country have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eastern Cape-based Maskandi artist Mlindelwa Mrhalaty, better known by his stage name Inkunzemdaka, is amongst those artists.

Mrhalatya last performed his music in December of 2019.

The Sports, Arts and Culture Department announced a R150 million relief fund that would be used to assist artists who could not make an income due to the pandemic. But Inkunzemdaka is asking for quick intervention.

“I am pleading with government to assist me if there’s a way. I can accept anything. COVID-19 came at a difficult time for me, a time when I was facing hard times and added to my problems. It’s very hard, even if I come across R2, I just think about food I need to put on the table for my children.”

He is one of the founding fathers of Maskandi music.

Mrhalatya has been in the music industry for over 30 years, winning numerous awards for his music and promoting the Xhosa language.

He left his house after numerous attacks on his household in 2017, and now he has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, unable to finish building his new house and unable to feed his family.

“Some of the rooms don’t have windows. I can’t finish this house and all the plans I had stopped. I used all the money I had to build this house and the house is unfinished, some of the children sleep with the neighbours. I even sold my car and used the money I was going to use to build a studio.”

The attack on the Mrhalatye household forced them to move from Nkantolo outside Mbizana, fearing for their lives.

Mambingwa Mrhalatye, the wife of Inkunzemdaka, was alone with her children in her house when unknown men entered and wreaked havoc in the home.

Mambingwa explains the details of the day they were attacked.

“I heard the windows breaking and decided to hide with the children. They were throwing stones in the house and stabbed our water tanks. We left our home which was finished. Even now, we hear they burnt a rondavel in that homestead.”

Inkunzemdaka has more than 10 other artists who work with him. They have also been feeling the pinch, depending on family members for food and shelter.

“We have been badly affected by the lockdown since we were unable to perform in front of people. We would like to ask government to assist us as artists to deal with the effects of the pandemic,” says one of the artists.

Government intervention

The Sports, Arts and Culture department spokesperson Busisiwe Jemsana-Mantashe says the department worked with district offices to ensure artists based in rural areas follow proper procedures when applying.

She says appeals processes will be opened for unsuccessful applicants.

“We are talking to him to see if he submitted an application as he indicated that a local councillor submitted forms for them, as he does not appear in the approved applicants. If he did apply and he was unsuccessful that application will help us to see why he was unsuccessful and it will assist him as well to appeal as we will be opening submission for appeals.”

Artists have urged the department to expedite the process as they are feeling the effects of COVID-19 on a daily basis. Artists like Inkunzemdaka are waiting impatiently for the announcement for the country to move to Level 1 of the lockdown.