The sit-in at National Arts Council (NAC) offices in Newtown, Johannesburg, has ended after two months.

The group of artists and creatives also known as Abahlali baseNAC announced on Friday afternoon that they were ending the protest following an announcement by public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Wednesday that her office would mediate in the row between the artists, the NAC and the department of sport, arts and culture.

The group has been demanding transparency in the dispersing of R300m Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP).

The group which staged a historical sit-in will leave the offices on Sunday.

Opera singer Sibongile Mngoma who led the group said: “We want to fumigate the place in the next 48 hours to make sure it is ready for NAC employees and the board on Monday. We came in peace and we are leaving in peace.”

She said their next stop is the department of sports, arts and culture offices.

Mngoma thanked Abahlali for being the real heroes of the struggle and for showing resilience and focus. She said staying in a confined space for 60 days was not a child’s play.  

“Our minister must prepare himself for a visit by Abahlali. It is up to you if we visit you for one day or 60 days. In terms of NAC, they failed to engage me fully and failed to complete the process by the end of March. Today, it is April 30. We are ready to leave because somebody like public protector, Hawks and legal teams have taken notice of what is happening here. Now that they are taking over the whole process, they need to move on to the next destination.”

Advocate Wendel Bloem of Mkhabela Huntley Attorneys who has been fighting with artists said: “We are living this building in power and in strength because we are armed with the law with regards to legal rights. We have launched papers with public protector yesterday that will pave one of the few avenues to try and resolve this impasse, so that we have justice.

“This morning we have partnered with other attorneys who represent other artists and we also effect a collaborative approach to see justice. We have specific timelines with regarding to the public protector response. Everybody wants justice and finality. If there is no finality there will be no peace. We came in peace and we are living in peace.”

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