Komani jazz prodigy Mlungisi Gegana is unhappy about the treatment he gets from the local department of sport, recreation, arts and culture (DSRAC) which has led to him being “forced” out of the Queenstown Arts Centre where he used to occupy a room to run his music academy.
Gegana indicated his relationship with DSRAC began when he made up his mind to move home from Johannesburg, where he had worked as a professional jazz musician.
“I would travel here to attend meetings with DSRAC officials when I made a proposal about the Mlungisi Music Academy. I initially asked to collaborate with the department in their existing programmes, but that could not happen. In our meetings, we would agree on matters and when I called to check on progress I would get a different response from what we had agreed upon. I endured being given the run-around until I moved back here and established the academy without any assistance.”
Gegana said he used the savings he had made through music to buy some musical instruments and other equipment that helped him start the academy.
“I was initially allowed to work in one of the rooms at the art centre – one of the biggest they have, which the department would also use to host events. This was a major inconvenience for us because they would just arrive unannounced and we would have to abandon classes for the remainder of the day. This was a frequent occurrence which led me to ask them to give us access to a smaller room, which would allow for privacy and the safety of our equipment. The room was provided until they asked me to move out of the centre by April 1, as someone needed to use the space as an office, which I found shocking.”
The musician indicated he forwarded the letter to the Chris Hani District Municipality mayor, who, according to Gegana, forwarded it to the MEC for DSRAC.
“The following day I received another letter which indicated that I did not have to move out of the centre, but must go back to working from the space they used to disturb us in. That was when I decided to move out, because they were trying to force me out without saying so in so many words.”
Gegana said some of his students helped find a place where the academy could operate, but had safety concerns.
“We found a place at the old Rowell Old Age Home building in Mlungisi which is best for me because it is in the township where the majority of my students are from. We hope to move in soon, but we are still working on security for our equipment.
“I am so disappointed that I received such treatment from people who I thought would be most welcoming to someone who brought something to the table. I did not approach them empty-handed, I had something to offer, but I was not welcomed in my own home where I am trying to develop young people through music.”
DSRAC communications manager Andile Nduna did not respond to a media query sent him regarding the matter.