KOPALA Empire Limited proprietor Sarafina Nthenga says artists who benefited from the empowerment fund still have five years to pay back.

And Nthenga says she only received K187,000 of the K300,000 she was supposed to get from the presidential arts development scheme.

On Monday, Ministry of Youth, Sport and Arts Permanent Secretary Kangwa Chileshe said government would not scrape off any loans which were paid to artists, adding that legal action could also be taken if need be.

On August 12, 2020, government gave K30 million as Presidential Arts Empowerment Fund, through the National Arts Council (NAC), to ‘deserving artists’ as loans.

In November 2020, 152 artists in various categories benefited from the revolving fund.

But commenting on this in an interview, Nthenga said artists still had three years before they could pay back.

“The money was issued in 2021 and the programme was supposed to commence on 1st January, 2022. It is not that artists were given money but they were only given equipment. Government has not given working capital for that. So if government wants to get the money, they need to get the equipment from the artist because no artist has been given the working capital. For me and I have not been given. I was just given K187,000 for my equipment. Now because of social media and cyber bullying, it has made this empowerment political. Instead of us artists benefiting, it has now become a political stance to attack artists from the programme,” she said.

“This is a revolving fund and it has to be paid within five years. So we still have three more years to pay this money. How come the PS goes to say government will start recovering? Yes, there was a letter written to us to start paying back but how can some people pay back without their working capital? This money was not fully paid but we only got equipment. We were given blank cheques but that went to the equipment. That was just some form of official communication to the public to say we have been empowered as Kopala Empire Limited.”

Nthenga said it was unfortunate that the empowerment fund was being politicised.

“So for me as Sarafina from Kopala Empire Limited and my team, we sat down and we resorted to pay the money back. It is going to set an example for us. The equipment is already there but the only thing which was not given is the working capital. We bought two cameras, lights and one desktop. We are going to give them their money so do not worry. We will keep the equipment and sell it. It is like this empowerment fund has become so political instead of the government to monitor our projects and spearhead everything. They are supposed to send monitors to evaluate our projects. Are we doing what they empowered us to do? They should just not say we are going to recover,” Nthenga said.

“Let them come and get the equipment we bought. One thing they should understand is they did not just get money and give it to me alone. I am sure you have seen a photo of me trending where I was holding money. That is my actual money because I do hustle. I am a contractor, I am a miner and I am a tamanga (hustler). I want us to be an example to every single artist that I returned the money. The problem is they are making it to be a political topic which is not supposed to be the case. In Zambia, artists have been neglected and we are overshadowed. I am a youth and I am supposed to benefit from that empowerment. For them to incline me with PF, I do not like because I am an independent person. I am not a PF cadre.”

Nthenga also said the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit owed her some money which could offset the loan she got from the fund.

“As for me, Kopala Empire is a company but government owes me money. You can go to DMMU and investigate how much money the government is owing me and have not paid. For me what I can do is tell the government to say you owe me and I owe you so deduct from the money you owe me. Fair deal,” said Nthenga.

“Youths need to be empowered and elevated. I am not the only beneficiary of that empowerment. Macky 2, Slap Dee and Bob Nkosha are some of the artists who benefited. Why is everything centered on me? So this is a revolving fund and other upcoming artists are supposed to benefit from it. This is a very good initiative and it must continue.”