Let’s build an arts and culture economy that creates jobs

By Athol Trollip, DA Mayoral Candidate: Nelson Mandela Bay:

The following speech was delivered by Athol Trollip at Mandela Peace Park, Motherwell, Port Elizabeth, in celebration of Heritage Day.

Democrats, fellow South Africans, welcome to Mandela Peace Park – an iconic location where our late uTata Madiba gave his first speech in the Eastern Cape as President of South Africa.

It is a great privilege to stand here on Heritage Day, representing the values and principles that Nelson Mandela spent his life fighting for.

In the words of our beloved Madiba, “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Freedom is more than the ability to vote. Real freedom is being given the opportunity to turn dreams into realities, no matter who you are, what you do or where you come from.

Real freedom means that every resident has access to opportunities. Opportunities that create jobs.

Everyone, from a painter to a lawyer, from a singer to a teacher and from a sculptor to a nurse, should be able to pursue their passion with the full support of a government that adds value and provides opportunity.

In a space where real freedom, real fairness and real opportunity exist there is no room for unemployment, no room for inequality, no room for poverty, no room for corruption, no room for failed municipal events, no room for crime and no room for broken communities.

Despite these daily debilitating obstacles, South Africans are the most resilient and determined people I know, making the most out of often difficult circumstances.

Our rich heritage and cultural diversity, which transcends these obstacles, is something to celebrate. Not only today, but every single day.

We have just seen some outstanding performances here, from which we can draw great inspiration. Performances which have confirmed my love for this great country and the talent and skills of its beautiful people.

Sadly, many of Nelson Mandela Bay’s cultural and artistic landmarks, places that could provide sanctuary for and inspiration to these artists, have been left to rack and ruin.

The symbolic Red Location Museum has been inexplicably closed for two years. This museum offers us a comprehensive analysis and representation of our painful past.

This past has inspired many artists and musicians to create and produce outstanding pieces of work and the Red Location Museum should contribute to this, but instead its doors remain shut.

Furthermore, various film and music festivals, many of which would have provided desperately needed income for the Metro and local artists, have failed to materialise due to corruption, poor planning and  flawed coordination by the municipality.

Successful festivals in Cape Town under a DA government, such as The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, The Barleycorn Music Festival and The Kirstenbosch Summer Concert Series, to name a few, bring in millions of Rands of revenue and provide opportunities for local talent to thrive.

This should also be happening here in Nelson Mandela Bay, but instead we are paralysed by an idle and uninspiring government.

A DA government here in the Bay will create a thriving arts and culture economy that creates jobs and embraces diversity.

Through support programmes run out of the Arts and Culture Directorate, a database of artists and musicians will be developed and maintained.

This will allow the municipality to call on artists with ease to showcase local talent at regular events.

A DA government in Nelson Mandela Bay will consider Roadshows which will see groups of local acts go on national tours to promote our wealth of Eastern Cape talent.

This Metro needs change. Change that cradles heritage and magnifies culture.

As we gather to celebrate our heritage, let us consider that such heritage should not be confined to our ethnic or racial origins.

Culture should overflow the boundaries of race and allows us to share in its diversity, as one. Because we are one.

No single culture is independent of another, and no language is unaffected by the multi-lingual experience which is the melting pot of South African life.

My heart swells with pride when I marvel at the fact that South Africa has 11 official languages, all of which hold their important place in society. From isiXhosa here in the Eastern Cape to isiZulu in KwaZulu-Natal, and from Venda in Limpopo to Afrikaans in Gauteng, each language represents cultural uniqueness, overlaid onto one great nation.

Our abundant heritage and culture is a constantly moving landscape, adapting and shifting as we continue to grow as a nation, and I am blessed to be part of it.

As we move towards another election, it becomes increasingly important to assess if enough is being done to ensure that our heritage is embraced and encouraged to thrive.

I have already begun my 60 wards in 60 days campaign and I am currently taking the DA’s vision of an Opportunity City to the people of Nelson Mandela Bay.

In the past week I have listened to more than 1000 people, young and old, who have been struggling to get by.

I walked side by side with the people of the Northern Areas; people who struggle without jobs and general service delivery.

In Kwazakhele I talked to entrepreneurs who are finding it difficult to grow their businesses and create jobs.

In Rowallan Park more than 100 unemployed youth approached me for help to turn their lives around – they pleaded with me to bring change to Nelson Mandela Bay.

This has been a stark reminder of just how much work needs to be done in Nelson Mandela Bay. It seems that our Metro has been forgotten and left to fend for itself.

This can change. And I’m asking you to consider this change. When called to action at next year’s elections, I ask that the people of this Metro consider our potential. Consider what we are capable of. Consider whether enough has been done under the current government to ensure that each individual reaches their potential.

There is such significant opportunity for our heritage to be leveraged to create an arts and culture economy that roots out unemployment. And it seems that this potential is being ignored.

The beautiful acts that I’ve seen here today should be on the world stage, encouraged and supported by a caring government that embraces every opportunity with open arms.

Instead, we see actors, musicians, rappers, poets, dancers and lyricists forced away from their passion as a result of non-existent government support facilities and programmes.

This is not good enough.

The DA sees a brighter future for South African arts, one where government does everything it can to support every aspiring artist. This government of the future is led by the DA.

The DA has already shown a clear intention to assist and support local entrepreneurs and artisans. A recently launched entrepreneurship competition, which will see an aspiring entrepreneur financed from seed capital and mentored by a successful local businessman, is a sign of things to come under a DA government.

At our Ngqura Constituency Office in Kwazakhele, we have supported and facilitated a beadwork project that employs over 5 local women, who were previously struggling to make ends meet.

I want this to be the rule, not the exception.

The DA is set on winning Nelson Mandela Bay in next year’s elections.

Our city, and our Metro deserve to be up there with the greatest cities in the world. We have the passionate people, the resources and the potential to be a real success story.

With our rich and diverse heritage we should be an arts and culture destination for festivals, tourists and other events.

My commitment to you, the people of Nelson Mandela Bay, is to make this Metro great by honouring and embracing our diverse heritage and culture, in its entirety.

I will ensure that our heritage becomes the cornerstone of our success, where every individual, regardless of race, gender, age, language, religion or creed is heard and given the opportunity to flourish.

I will ensure Nelson Mandela Bay becomes a safe, caring and inclusive city that is forward thinking and well run – built on the foundations of freedom, fairness and opportunity.

Together, we will achieve this by starting delivery, stopping corruption and creating jobs.

Change is coming.
Change that will bring hope.
Change that will bring promise.
Change that will make our Metro the great place we all know it can be.