The ETPS (event technical production services) draft sector codes highlight aspects of ownership, management control and skills development in the cultural and creative industries.  Stakeholders are curious about what will come out of them, once finalised. 

Approximately over 1 million South Africans generate their income, either as self-employed or employed, in the event technical production services (ETPS), also known as the ‘event support’ sector, which covers the cultural and creative industries. At the last count, statistics from the SA Cultural Observatory (SACO) indicated that in 2018, the sector contributed R75.3bn to the annual GDP and accounted for 60% of all jobs in the industry. Yet the level of transformation, as far as the ownership of black South Africans, women and people with disabilities – in this critical sector is sketchy, at best, or opaque, at worst, due to paucity of statistics and research to inform the direction. And so, observing the situation, in a review Struan Douglas, author and cultural activist, hopes that the Transformation Forum, a body responsible for overseeing transformation of the ETPS sector, will finalise that unique sector codes for soon.

Low ownership and lack of skills

27 years into the country’s democracy, an apartheid era situation still persists in the ETPS. The involvement of black South Africans is limited, conspicuous with lack of skills and a handful owning or having stake in companies.

In the 1980s, Freddie Nyathela, who founded the SA Roadies Association in 1995, lamented on the challenges black South Africans who worked backstage as roadies faced in the 1980s. “The purpose of the apartheid system (is) that black people must dance and act and the technical production side must be a whites-only affair,” said Nyatheka, himself a roadie by trade A roadie by trade who toured Southern Africa in the 1980s and 90s, working backstage at huge events, at some stage with legendary Eric Clapton.

Not much if any, has changed since the apartheid years, judging from the observation that American sound and lighting technician, Carl Golembowski, made when he toured South Africa in 2012 with Mary J Blige. Golembowski was appalled at the sad state of conditions backstage. “When I saw what the kids have to go through and the students have to deal with, just to work and learn, it was beyond anything I had ever seen. They don’t have support because people are against them learning and growing.”

The business case for transformation

Unquestionably, there is a strong business case for new ETPS sector codes. ETPS are used across the industry – in theatres, cultural precincts, cinemas, museums, film studios, conference centres, festivals and clubs, and logistical support services. They fall under the ambit of the Department of Sports, Arts and Cultural.

At the time the country is weighed down by unemployment crisis, which mostly affects the youth, who constitute half of employees, one of the avenues worth exploring to address the problem is in the events industry. About 65% to 80% people are employed in the sector on a freelance basis.

Draft codes to transform the sector

Hence, in view of the sector’s relevance, the ETPS draft sector codes revise aspects of ownership, management control and skills development. The following are the main highlights of the industry-specific, broad-based black economic empowerment scorecard:

  • An increase in share ownership in empowerment structures, such as co-operatives, from 4% to 20%.
  • Social transformation is emphasised, with an increase in annual value of socioeconomic development contributions from 1% to 3%.
  • Points and targets for black women ownership are doubled.
  • A new target for the promotion of junior employees to middle management, with the use of succession plans and skills development.
  • Skills development – increase in the spending target to 15%.
  • Increase in the weighting of points allocated to each target – enterprises with fewer than 50 points are noncompliant and with over 120 points are level one empowered.
  • Sector codes only apply to businesses that generate more than 50% of their revenue from the events sector and earn more than R10m per annum, as either a qualifying small enterprise or a large enterprise.

The ‘support’ sector falls under the Technical Production Services Association, which itself is part of Southern African Association for the Conference Industry. Transformation Forum is responsible for overseeing progress in transforming the sector, mainly skills development and ownership. Upon finalisation of sector codes, the forum will reconstitute as a council with the statutory implications to monitor the scorecard. The BEE commission is the watchdog. The Transformation Council would report to the commissioner.

ETPS is the 12th code to be developed under Section 9 of the BBBEE Act 53 of 2003.

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