Durban - In an about-turn, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, along with eThekwini Municipality, will no longer host the South African Music Awards (Samas) in Durban.
This comes after opposition political parties raised their concerns about the millions of rand that were to be spent on the event that they said could be used for other important programmes. They put the figure at a cumulative R53 million which was denied by the provincial government.
Speaking during a press briefing yesterday, KZN Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Edtea) MEC Siboniso Duma announced that the department had withdrawn from hosting the awards this year in the “interest of maintaining fiscal discipline”.
The 29th annual national awards ceremony was scheduled to take place at the Durban ICC next month. KZN beat the other provinces in the bid to host the event.
“As an executive authority, having consulted widely with the executive council and other stakeholders, I have advised the department to stop the hosting of the South African Music Awards this year,” Duma said.
Duma said senior management had been mandated to engage with the Recording Industry of South Africa (Risa) and report back to him as the executive authority.
“We will also report to the KZN Executive Council as the hosting of the Sama awards was a collective decision.
“We reiterate the point that our hearts are with artists whose lives were destroyed by the outbreak of Covid-19. The Sama Awards was their hope and source of income before the festive season,” he said.
The MEC also said the funds that had been confirmed by KZN Treasury and Edtea for the event were about R20m before VAT, with the expectation that more than R350m would be generated for the local economy.
In addition, eThekwini Municipality committed another R25m towards the event, with an estimated R63m injection into the City’s GDP.
Nhlanhla Sibisi, the CEO of Risa, which is the organiser of the Samas, said they learnt with great disappointment “of the eleventh-hour decision” by the department to withdraw from the event.
“We have a three-year contract with Edtea and will be consulting with our contractual partners to find out what led to this decision and carve a way forward. As such, we will advise in due course what the next steps will be,” he said.
He said the Samas remained the largest, most prestigious, inclusive and representative music awards event in the country’s music landscape that attracted considerable attention as well as market-leading viewership among televised music awards shows across the continent.
“We note with dismay that a prestigious, credible and apolitical national cultural asset that has been in operation for 29 uninterrupted years, has been characterised as a conduit for looting. This is an assertion that we as Risa strongly rebuke,” said Sibisi.
Sibisi added that the economic benefits of hosting the awards would have included directly creating more than 150 new job opportunities and would have seen the booking of 350 rooms per night across hotels and other accommodation.
Political parties, including ActionSA, the IFP and the DA, all welcomed the decision.
ActionSA’s Zwakele Mncwango thanked the MEC for heeding the party’s calls after it had sounded the alarm earlier this month.
“Edtea’s focus and resources could find better expression in addressing the urgent economic challenges affecting the province, especially among the youth,” he said.
Mncwango said ActionSA had raised the inappropriate nature of the multimillion-rand spending by the cash-strapped KZN provincial government and eThekwini Municipality.
“This commitment was made despite the decrepit state of infrastructure and the ongoing recovery efforts in a province still grappling with the devastating aftermath of the July 2021 riots and the April 2022 floods,” said Mncwango.
IFP MPL Otto Kunene said the event would have been a costly exercise, especially as they were initially informed that R8m had been budgeted for the awards.
“Spending (such an amount) was insensitive to the plight of the people of the province who are facing difficult challenges with the disaster that happened last year, and the storm that we experienced last week. The priorities of the government were not aligned to the needs of the people,” he said.
According to KZN DA leader Francois Rodgers, the party had said from the beginning that the money was never budgeted for by the department, and it seemed excessively expensive.
“We’ve always said that artists need to be appreciated, acknowledged and rewarded for their good work, but the bottom line is why does Edtea not get corporate sponsorship to sponsor these events rather than using money out of the provincial fiscus? We were already in a tight situation,” he said.
The Trade Union for Musicians of South Africa said its national executive committee had decided not to issue a statement until the union had had an opportunity to engage with the relevant parties.