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The “cash-strapped” Sisonke district municipality spent over R1.6 million on music and cultural festivals as well as a prayer day event, with some of the funds allegedly being used to entertain councillors and staff at the Ugu Jazz Festival staged in Port Shepstone at the weekend.
All this while pit latrine toilets overflowed in some townships in Kokstad and taps continued to run dry in the southern KwaZulu-Natal town.
The Sisonke municipality – responsible for the provision of water and sanitation in Kokstad and four other towns – is said to be unable to remedy the problems due to financial constraints.
According to the DA, the municipality had not been able to drain the ventilated improved pit toilets due to lack of funds – leading to the overflow of sewage onto some streets, but these allegations have been dismissed by the municipality.
The DA said it was baffled as to why the municipality would spend so much money on sponsoring the Ugu Jazz Festival and entertaining councillors and officials.
It also claimed that part of the money was spent on a marquee at the event where alcohol flowed throughout the night.
Sisonke spokesman Ndabezitha Tenza, said the R1.6m “invested” in the Ugu Jazz Festival – and related events – was used by the municipality as a platform to showcase its tourism destinations – this in spite of the fact that the event was being hosted by the neighbouring Ugu district.
Tenza went on to explain that the bulk of the funds had been used to finance build-up events to the Ugu festival.
These included R50 000 for an investment and media tour; R400 000 for the Indigenous Music Festival on Youth Day; R750 000 for the prayer event the following day and R100 000 which went towards a comedy and cultural festival.
“We also had to send our artists to the Jazz Festival pre-party. So you see, we did not just pump money into Ugu as it is now being made to seem.
“Given the economic impact of the Ugu Jazz Festival, in terms of tourism, arts and culture and moral regeneration, our executive committee approved our participation,” Tenza said of the municipality’s decision to sponsor the event.
On Wednesday the DA engaged the services of a private contractor to drain some of the pit latrines that had overflowed at the Horse Shoe township.
DA councillor at Greater Kokstad municipality, Francois Rodgers, said draining one toilet cost about R500.
He added that the municipality would have been able to drain many toilets with the funds spent on the jazz festival.
The DA – through one of its councillors – had reported the overflowing toilets to the municipality, but was told that there were no funds to solve the problem and that it would have to wait until the next budget had been approved, Rodgers said.
But Tenza countered this, saying that the municipality continued to drain the ventilated improved toilets as required.
“We use what is called the honeysucker for this. It might happen that we were not aware of this overflow. The DA should have notified the municipality instead of what they have done because, should they damage something in the process, that would be another issue altogether.”
Tenza added that the municipality had spent 99 percent of its municipal infrastructure grant (MIG) funding during the current financial year.
With respect to water problems in the district, Tenza said Kokstad’s water problems were mainly due to the growth experienced by the town in recent years, which had resulted in the old infrastructure not being able to cope with the population growth.
“We inherited an irreparable, dilapidated infrastructure from the previous administration, which was poorly constructed with asbestos pipes,” Tenza said.
In Bulwer, he said, water problems were the result of dwindling resources – a problem, he said, which was being addressed by the national government.
Meanwhile, Kokstad residents staged a sit-in at the local municipal offices demanding jobs and improved service delivery.
The sit-in followed protests this week and last week which have already seen over 60 people being arrested for violence and damage to property.
On Tuesday night, protesters burnt down a number of bus shelters in the town, claiming widespread nepotism and unfair allocation of tenders.
The Kokstad municipality – in a letter penned in response to residents’ grievances – denied all these claims while it pointed out that it was investigating corruption in the awarding of RDP houses.