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eThekwini deputy mayor defends gala event, opposition say dinner was pointless exercise

eThekwini deputy mayor Philani Mavundla has defended the hosting of the first gala dinner for a budget presentation for the city’s Human Settlements and Infrastructure committee.

EThekwini deputy mayor Philani Mavundla. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African news Agency(ANA)

Published Jul 4, 2022

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Durban - eThekwini Municipality deputy mayor Philani Mavundla has defended the hosting of the first gala dinner for a budget presentation for the city’s Human Settlements and Infrastructure (HSI) committee, saying the intention was to make people understand how their money will be utilised.

The event, hosted on Thursday evening, came under fierce criticism from opposition parties who questioned the reasons for holding it.

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Political parties still insisted yesterday that the event had no value and the focus should be on assisting those left homeless by the recent floods.

There were also allegations that the hosting of the event raised tensions between the mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and Mavundla. This incident came shortly after Kaunda had allegedly blocked Mavundla from unveiling new trucks bought for the Durban Solid Waste Unit on account that he wanted to host the launch event. Kaunda eventually unveiled the vehicles on Friday.

On Wednesday, when the mayor’s office was questioned about the gala event that was to be hosted the following day at a posh Durban hotel, it claimed ignorance about it.

Addressing the gala event, Mavundla said he was aware that the event had created controversy.

“Today, give me an opportunity to explain to exco, other people are complaining about this and I believe it was in the front page of The Mercury that we were having this gala dinner as HSI.

“We have been told that something like this has never been done before, I don’t know why it has never been done,” he told the attendees, including stakeholders such as Delangokubona Business Forum representatives.

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He equated presenting the HSI budget to the presentation of the national Budget by different line ministers and the provincial budget by the MEC.

“We decided as HSI, since about 75% of the eThekwini budget is with HSI, maybe it does make sense that our stakeholders and the people out there understand what we’re going to do with their money, that is all what this is.”

He said they would also go to different wards and present the budget.

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“We want to be in a position where we can report on a quarterly basis how we are doing, are we performing?

“This is us being responsible enough to go to the stakeholders to say, this is what you can expect and saying to the recipient this is what we will be doing.”

Mavundla said the money would be put to good use. “Thank you for listening to us about what we are going to be doing with your money.”

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Mavundla said such communication and presentation of detailed information could help avoid incidents, including the invasion of construction sites.

He said over the next five years, he wanted to make sure that no project was stopped in Durban.

“I want us to talk about problems, and ensure that when we engage in a project, we start it and there are no issues.”

However, opposition parties expressed scepticism, with others still demanding to know who paid for the event.

African Democratic Change (ADeC) councillor Visvin Reddy said hosting the gala dinner did not make any sense. “There is no need for these extravagant functions. Who funded the event?

“The deputy mayor is very much aware of the plight of communities which he has been highlighting in the media.

“Surely, he could have used his influence to get these same sponsors to fund initiatives to alleviate the plight of the flood victims?

“This budget that was announced is nothing new. It was released in council by the mayor, so what is the need to hold a glitzy event to do something that was already done in council. It is clear that the deputy mayor is running his own campaign.”

IFP councillor Mzwethu Gwala said they boycotted the event because they did not understand its agenda.

“You don’t need to host a gala dinner to table the budget, and we cannot be hosting gala dinners when there are people still destitute because of the floods. This thing was not properly communicated, I am the whip of the IFP in the community and yet I had no idea of what was happening.”

Gwala said the IFP did not want to be linked to anything that it could not explain or defend.

DA councillor Zamani Khuzwayo said they still did not know what the point of the gala dinner was. “He could have called a press conference, not all ratepayers attended that gala dinner, it was only stakeholders that include Delangokubona and mayors from other areas, according to his speech.”

“That was a top-class gala dinner and they are still not clear who paid for it, they claim the municipality did not pay, why would a private individual have interest in sponsoring a municipal gala dinner?” asked Khuzwayo.

THE MERCURY

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