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The Cape Minstrels parade, which draws thousands of people to the city centre over the new year, is in danger of being torpedoed by a row about money.
Faggie Carelse, chairman of the Kaapse Karnival Association, said the 169 troupes due to participate in this year's parades had decided to cancel due to the "inadequate" R1,5-million funding by the provincial government.
An urgent meeting was to be held on Wednesday between the City of Cape Town and the province to try to prevent a fiasco.
This is the second year running that the association has threatened to call off the parades should the province not provide the level of funding it demands.
About 50 000 locals and tourists are expected to line the streets of the city centre to watch the minstrels with their painted faces and brightly coloured and sequined satin suits providing a spectacular musical parade.
A decision to cancel the parades was reached on Tuesday at a meeting of all the groups belonging to the association. Carelse said six of the seven groupings, which include the Malay choirs and three minstrel boards, had decided "unanimously" not to take part in this year's street parade.
Only the Christmas choirs were not involved, as they had already held their processions. The province is providing R1,5-million in total for the parades, of which R1,3-million goes to the association and about R206 000 to two breakaway groups, the Mitchell's Plain Youth Development Minstrel Board and the Kaapse Klopse Karnival Association.
The Kaapse Karnival Association's allocation is divided to spend R755 000 on transport, sound and stage expenses; about R265 000 for ambulance expenses; and R323 000 for individual groups.
The association is outraged at the R323 000 allocation for troupes, saying it is not enough to pay for the uniforms, costumes, umbrellas and other expenses of the participating groups.
It is also unhappy about the money deducted for ambulance expenses. Carelse appealed to Premier Ebrahim Rasool to intervene in the funding row before Cape Town's "oldest cultural event" collapsed in ignominious dispute.
He said that in spite of meetings and workshops with the province over many months, the association had not been informed of the funding allocation until the last minute.
But the province's chief of staff, Dr Lionel Louw, disputed this, saying the association had known about the allocations for some time.
"We have certainly honoured what we have undertaken to do in providing funding for the road march. We will meet today and then decide what to do," he said.
Carelse said that in the past three years the carnival had been allocated about R3m in total by local and provincial government. But it was now so big that R323 000 was not enough for the ever-increasing number of participants.
"The 169 troupes will only get between R1 000 and R3 000 each when this funding is split. This is hopelessly inadequate to defray the expenses of uniforms, costumes, umbrellas and various other expenses," he said.
"In the previous years we had no complaints, as the funding was enough for the troupes. The number of the troupes has almost doubled in the past year, but we are still being given the same funding.
"This is not adequate ... this has left everyone dissatisfied and we can't let things to go like this. We have to find a solution to save the event."
Shafick April, the president of Cape Malay Choir Board, threatened to take the carnival to the townships instead of the city centre, as the province treated people like "street kids".
"We are very disappointed with the province. After all these months of workshopping we get dropped at the 11th hour. When the province divided up the money they never consulted us.
"We will take the carnival to the townships and do it among our own people, where it's needed, instead of entertaining the tourists."