FORMER National Arts Council of Zambia (NAC) chairperson Patrick Samwimbila says one cannot be an all-round expert to know that artists used fake information to benefit from the youth empowerment fund.

And Samwimbila says there is a misconception that the empowerment fund was given to artists inclined to the PF.

Minister of Youth, Sport and Arts Elvis Nkandu recently disclosed that some artists used fake information to benefit from the youth empowerment fund, adding that some recipients might have connived with suppliers to convert the funds meant for equipment into cash.

Commenting on this in an interview, Samwimbila said those who faked information were no good to the industry.

“When you are dealing with people and the individuals decide to fake information, you may not be [an] all-round expert to know that this is a fake residential area. The due diligence was done and these people were found in those places. So for me if there were some that faked information, those are not doing good to the industry. The programme, procedure, guidelines and criteria meant well, to empower [the industry],” he said.

“Government meant well to empower the industry. Remember for the first time, that is why it is making this storm because it is the first-ever funding from the government that has reached that level. And indeed, omissions could have been there being the first time NAC was handling the fund but believe you me, the criteria and guidelines are all in black and white developed with the guidance of experts but by the artists themselves. For me, the call from the Ministry for the repayment is timely.”

Samwimbila urged artists who benefited from the fund to pay back in good time so that others could also benefit.

“We were dealing with a professional body and NAC never handled that money. The money was being handled by a fund manager who has been in the business of giving out loans for a long time. So I am getting worried to hear that repayment is slow because that is not right on the part of the recipient, not on the part of NAC but it is on the part of the fund manager to ensure that when time is up for repayment they follow them up. CEEC has a department for collections. So those that meet the conditions of paying back should pay back. You only start paying back when you have been fully financed and I believe there are those that were already financed,” he said.

“The guidelines gave clear instructions that there is a grace period and once that elapses, the recipients should be able to start paying back. If you have any challenges you go back to the fund manager and produce some kind of paperwork that you are unable to start repaying and they can be lenient and extend their grace period. On this one, we put this one clearly that please, this is the first funding ever to the industry. If the artists pay back in good time it will help empower many others. We just started with 152 but when they pay back, that money is supposed to go back in the industry and we call for proposals for other people to apply and benefit. So any other well meaning artist that received that funding must be able to stand tall by saying ‘I will also do my best to pay back so that others benefit’.”

And Samwimbila said there was a misconception that the empowerment fund was given to PF inclined artists.

“It is a misconception and if it is a misconception then there is nothing we can do about it. Time itself will tell. You also know that this was a nationwide thing and people point at certain individuals and say these are inclined to the party. But are you sure we have really done a thorough check of the whole list to say everyone there danced and sang songs for the ruling party? The answer is no. We were looking at the projects submitted to the council and those are projects from which the list was drawn,” said Samwimbila.

“So for me it is neither here nor there to say this is not a proper artist. I have seen articles that even say those are jokers. For me that is insulting to the industry. When they look at the people that received money, seriously speaking, you cannot call them jokers and you cannot call them not real artists. Those are real Zambian artists and their projects met the criteria that are set in the guidelines. Most of those artists complaining that they were left ku wire, they did not apply. So for me the challenge with our country is that we are politicising everything. There is nothing we can do if that is the way the dispensation of the country has gone.”