eThekwini under fire for Mkhwanazi funeral costs

Durban - The eThekwini Municipality has been lambasted by opposition parties for spending R761 150 on the funeral costs of politically connected, millionaire businessman, Don Mkhwanazi, who died in July.

According to an item presented to the city’s executive committee (Exco) on Wednesday, the municipality spent R761 150 on hiring the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre for a day.

Opposition parties are demanding to know why the eThekwini Municipality spent R761 000 on the funeral of prominent businessman Don Mkhwanazi, considered one of President Jacob Zuma's backers. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

The item came before Exco as part approval for expenditure that occurred during the election recess.

When pressed for details on the high cost of hiring the ICC for a day and for a breakdown on the expenditure, mayor Zandile Gumede and city manager, S’bu Sithole, asked for the matter to be deferred so officials could write a report.

Sithole however said the money was spent on hiring the ICC for the day of Mkhwanazi’s funeral.

DA Caucus leader, Zwakele Mncwango, said it was “illogical” to spend such a large amount of money towards the funeral costs of a wealthy businessman. He said Mkhwanazi had died before the election recess and the money requested had not been more than R500 000.

“Here we are talking about a prominent business person, surely this person has (funeral) covers and for council to take public funds to support the funeral of a business person is a concern. For me it’s an insult to say ‘we are in recess let’s spend so much money’.

“We sometimes fight over R200 000 spent on a councillor (burial) but now you tell us you spent R761 000 on a funeral,” said Mncwango.

The DA leader added that many poor families who had gone to the city for help to bury their loved ones were turned down.

“How do I go to the public and explain this? I can’t,” Mncwango said.

“The DA has in the past 5 years been calling for a funeral civic policy which will determine how much money should be spent on funerals by the city. Without this policy, any expenditure becomes irregular.”

Mncwango called for an investigation that would “shed light on what happened”.

Mkhwanazi, a KZN entrepreneur, widely acclaimed as the father of Black Economic Empowerment, died of a heart attack at the age of 63 in July.

He was a well known ANC benefactor who set up the Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust during President Zuma’s rape trial.

Mdu Nkosi of the IFP also called for a breakdown of how the money had been spent.

“It’s a pity we are talking about someone who is no more, but this is wrong,” he said.

Nkosi proposed that funerals of city officials be held at the city hall to avoid the misuse of public funds.

Gumede promised a report would be provided at the next Exco sitting.