Fes­ti­val ‘de­signed to line pock­ets’

DA call to probe ex­pen­di­ture

Daily News - - NEWS - CHRIS NDALISO and MPHATHI NX­U­MALO

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.

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