Cape Town - A standoff between the City of Cape Town and one of the biggest minstrel associations over control of the Tweede Nuwejaar carnival could affect the whole event, mayor Patricia de Lille has warned.
The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association, which represents about 33 troupes – more than half of those expected to take part in the parade scheduled for January 4 - is taking the city to court.
“We are in dispute with the city because we don’t want to be controlled by an event company. This is about principles and our community,” said Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association chair Richard Stemmet.
But De Lille said the city would “not bend the law” to give in to the association’s demands to manage the event themselves. “This is just not on.”
Stemmet insisted this latest row with the city was not about funding, but about being controlled by an outside company, Bharooch Event Styling and Management, when its members were spending money on preparations for the annual parade. “They are making money from our event.”
The city was on Tuesday still hopeful that the impasse would be resolved and that the association would accept its conditions and join the other groups in signing the agreement.
It has allocated R3.5 million to provide traffic control, law enforcement and other logistical support for the event.
De Lille said the province also contributed R2m for transport, while the national government provided an undisclosed amount for various costs. With funding coming from all three spheres of government, the association’s demands for extra financial resources and greater control was “unsustainable and unreasonable”.
She said she would contact Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile about the city’s concerns and to determine how much money would come from the national government.
Stemmet said the association did not want to discuss the matter further, as the city was reneging on its previous agreements.
Other events, such as the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour and Cape Town Carnival, were able to appoint their own organisers, and the minstrels should be allowed to do the same.
“It’s our march and now we must be guests. It is totally unfair.”
The association had managed its own event for almost two decades, and had always complied with the city’s bylaws, he said.
But De Lille said it had been clear during negotiations that the association was “hell-bent” on getting the city to give it money to organise the event themselves. She said last year’s parade was a “complete disaster” as the associations battled to organise transport for their members.
Money had been given to the troupes to arrange their own transport, but this year the city would engage directly with Golden Arrow Bus Services to avoid similar problems.
De Lille said at a media briefing that extensive efforts were being made to include all the associations in the event. “We are at our wit’s end to try and get them on board.” But negotiations with the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association had been “unco-operative and confrontational”.
She said the city was working at improving its relationship with the minstrel community.
In 2011, retired Constitutional Court Judge Kate O’Reagan was appointed as an independent mediator in negotiations and the parade was restored to its original route through the Bo-Kaap.
De Lille said the city had started discussions in April to minimise potential problems. Most of the associations agreed with the city’s conditions, and had signed the memorandum of understanding on December 3.
City events director Teral Cullen said conditions included guidelines for arrival times, arrangements with the province for transport, the accreditation of participating troupes and other logistics.
The South African Christmas Bands Board, which traditionally takes to the street on Christmas Eve, has also not signed the agreement. De Lille said the city would therefore not organise or incur costs for the event, which was “very regrettable”.
Anton Groenewald, city executive director of tourism, events and marketing, said the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association’s participation would be unauthorised if it did not sign the city’s agreement, but its troupes would not be barred from taking part.
“I don’t think it will be necessary to arrest them if they do attend,” said De Lille.