Festival ‘designed to line pockets’
DA call to probe expenditure
THE Essence Festival was designed to “feed” the bank accounts of comrades, friends and families of those who were politically connected, irate ratepayers said yesterday.
This follows a call by the DA for city manager Sipho Nzuza to investigate the more than R100 million spent on the festival last year.
The budget for last year’s event is alleged to have escalated from the initial R35m to R95m, with the DA alleging that the amount had reached R103m.
The event is based on a music and cultural festival held in New Orleans, US.
Just like the New Orleans festival, Essence Festival Durban is expected to bring together international performers and speakers, as well as local artists and experts.
Many in Durban voiced their opinion on the event:
Danny Moodley, a Durban North ratepayer, said the eThekwini Municipality’s programmes favoured those who were politically connected. This was not an eThekwini problem, but countrywide, he said.
“As far as I’m concerned, there are tenders for friends. Corruption is the order of the day and this affects service delivery. Friends and families of those in leadership positions are looting the State from the top – down to municipalities – and eThekwini is no different.
“People don’t have jobs, they don’t have a home and everywhere there is unhappiness. Look at the service delivery protests and you will know that people are not happy,” Moodley said.
Another ratepayer, who did not want to be named, said the government would sometimes embark on programmes that did not benefit the masses.
“I don’t pay R4 000 a month in tax for programmes that benefit a few elite. This municipality should get its priorities right and, currently, I don’t see them prioritising people’s needs. We are ratepayers, but we don’t know who gets what tender for what programme and on what grounds, hence the rampant stealing of money through tenders,” he said.
Irene Reid, another ratepayer, said the city was squandering ratepayers’ money in many ways, and this festival was one of those.
“Housing, water, and sanitation for the poor – I’ve since switched my mind from the affairs of this city because we are going nowhere. In job creation, you find cronyism and nepotism. This is evident in the recent article by the Daily News about city employees benefiting from the Expanded Public Works Programme,” Reid said.
The Merebank Ratepayers’ Association said the amount spent on the festival, if it were accurate, was not justifiable.
Arisha Govender-Ramjanek, the chairperson, said the event was “just an expensive exposure” at the expense of the ratepayers and the poor around the city.
Iqbal Mohamed, the Organisation of Civic Rights chairperson, said: “If one looks at the way the money is being spent, it is being misdirected.”
He felt the city should look at its priorities.
Mohamed said the city al- ready had problems with homelessness and people who were destitute. He said the city could not continue spending money the way it was currently.
What saddened him the most was that more than 20 years into democracy, there were still people who were suffering.
Charles Preece, the east coast operations manager of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa, said although he did not remember the exact figures from last year’s festival, it “didn’t register a blip on the screen”.
“I don’t think it is one of our more successful festivals.”
He was also not very hopeful about this year’s festival. “I have not heard about any sort of excitement in the industry about it,” he said.
When contacted for comment, city manager Sipho Nzuza said he was in New York and was not aware of the DA’s complaint on the money being spent on the festival.