Municipality threatened with legal action over Maritzburg United funding
DURBAN - THE BANKRUPT Msunduzi Municipality in Pietermaritzburg has been threatened with legal action if it ever succumbs to a request for R48 million funding for the next three years by the financially troubled Maritzburg United football club.
According to Msunduzi Mayor Mzimkhulu Thobela, the Premier Soccer League team had in October last year written to the municipality requesting funding of R15 million, the money that the home of KwaZulu-Natal’s capital city does not have.
But Maritzburg United chairperson Farook Kadodia said the team had actually written to the city requesting a total of R48 million for the next three years.
It had been reported that due to Covid-19 economic meltdown, Kadodia had considered selling the team.
Mzimkhulu said the matter was first discussed at the council meeting towards the end of the year and the request was rejected. He said the financially constrained council was itself looking for a funding of R10 billion to revitalise its service delivery infrastructure.
The matter of funding the team was again brought back into the council’s agenda during a virtual meeting held on December 15 last year for further discussion and consideration.
This has enraged the Msunduzi Association of Residents, Ratepayers and Civics (MARRC), which felt that the city should spend its money on more important matters than funding a football club.
MARRC is an umbrella body of various city’s ratepayer and civic associations.
Msunduzi Municipality intervened previously by spending millions of rands to the team of choice after news surfaced that it was going to move to Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality due to financial challenges.
Kadodia said the end three-year funding agreement that saw the council sponsoring the team with R29.5 million until last year is a financial disaster for the team’s existence.
Kadodia said he had unsuccessfully approached a number of private businesses for funding.
“Over the last four years I had two offers on the table, and because they wanted to relocate the club (from the province) I refused.
“I have done my fair share, and people must know that it is not about Maritzburg United taking R16 million a year. The team would commit R8 million back to the city,” he said.
He said while R15 million is directly for running the team, a further R1 million is for “social projects”. He said it was a struggle for KwaZulu-Natal teams to get sponsors.
Thobela said although the city might not have money, it should do something to assist the team, which has placed the city on the national map and helped to grow its economy.
The MARRC, which attended the December 15 council’s virtual meeting, had on January 4 this year written to Thobela, municipal manager Madoda Khathide and Chief Financial Officer Nelisiwe Ngcobo requesting that the club’s appeal for further funding not be entertained since the municipality was facing challenges, which impede service delivery due to a lack of financial resources. The organisation said it finds it ironic and disingenuous for the city to even table this as an agenda item for discussion.
“MARRC is totally opposed to such a proposal and calls on the Council to revoke such a decision and to reinstate the initial resolution not to support the funding of Maritzburg United Football Club,” read MARRC’s letter.
The capital city had in the past years been in and out of administration due to the collapse of service delivery, and Premier Sihle Zikalala had to fire members of the previous executive committee and replace them with a new committee under Thobela’s leadership.
MARRC said the money that has been requested by the Maritzburg United should instead be used to “repairing the multitude of water leaks, electrical substations, potholes, upgrading infrastructure, fixing the SAPS system or providing relief to families hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown”.
MARRC gave Thobela 14 days to respond to its request or it would approach provincial Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Sipho Hlomuka “to rescind the decision and if need be to also take legal action too”.
Talking to Independent Media’s Investigations Unit, MARRC chairperson Anthony Waldhausen said any money spent on Maritzburg United would be considered a wasteful and fruitless expenditure.
“The problem we have in this municipality is that they don’t know how to prioritise,” he said.
He added that for the past six days, numerous city’s upmarket suburbs have not had electricity due to poor maintenance which led to a major substation blowing up into flames.
“They are repairing old infrastructure instead of rebuilding it from scratch to make it new.
“The substation blew up about a week ago or after Christmas, and electricity has not come back on as yet,” said Waldhausen.
Thobela said the council had not yet taken a resolution to fund Maritzburg United, but he added that “personally I would advise” the council to consider the request since Maritzburg United had brought major teams to play against it in the city and boosted small businesses.
“At the last council meeting I raised the matter that had I been part of the meeting I would have advised the council otherwise, therefore I request that the matter must come back for further engagement as I feel that the council should assist them,” he said.
He said his support for the team’s funding request was because the team was the only positive thing that the city had.
“In terms of social cohesion, there has not been a single team that brought the people of the city together.
“Only when Maritzburg United is playing you find more than a hundred people of India origin at the stadium, more than a hundred coloured people, more than 50 white people and many thousands of Africans celebrating together,” he said. | Investigations Unit