Thapong Centre Accused of Exploiting Artists

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  • Govt. pays P665 000 for elephant sculpture at SSKIA
  • Artists only get P273 000 out of the P665 000
  • Artists feel cheated by Thapong Arts Centre

SONNY SERITE

Some of the artists who were engaged in the project to make the elephant sculpture at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) have accused Thapong Visual Arts Centre of exploitation. The artists raised their grievances following revelations by the Auditor General that the Department of Wildlife and National Parks paid out P665 000 to Thapong Visual Arts Centre for the project. Following an article that was published by The Botswana Gazette on the report of the Auditor General, the artists have come forth to complain that public perception was that they had received the P665 000 whereas the truth is they got less than half of the amount said to have been paid for the project.

According to the artists, each one of them was paid P39 000 which means they were made to share only P273 000 among the seven of them while Thapong Visual Arts Centre pocketed the remaining P392 000. The artists said what surprised them was that they had quoted the same amount that the Department of Wildlife paid out to Thapong Centre but were told by management of Thapong Centre that government had lowered the price citing financial constraints. ‘‘We now have to explain to our spouses that we got less than what is reported to have been paid to Thapong Centre,’’ one of them said in an interview.

Reached for comment, Thapong Visual Arts Centre Coordinator Reginald Bakwena confirmed that indeed the Department of Wild and National Parks paid his organization P665 000 immediately after completion of the sculpture and added that the centre took the remainder of the total sum after paying the artists. He said they used the money to transport and buy food for the artists during the project. Bakwena said the project was for Thapong Centre which then commissioned the artists to do the job. He said as far as they are concerned, all the artists were happy with their remuneration and understood that Thapong Centre had to collect administration fees from the project payout. The artists however maintain that they feel cheated because the total amount charged to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks was never disclosed to them. They also raised concern that immediately after this publication contacted Thapong Centre, Bakwena phoned some of them asking them not to talk to the media.

The Ministry of Wildlife and National Parks has not responded to enquiries sent to it by this publication on 28 July. The Botswana Gazette had also wanted to get response on the report of the Auditor General who had questioned the transfer of P806 507 from Government Special Funds vote as payment for the design and production of the elephant sculpture long after the department had already paid Thapong Visual Arts Centre.

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