Top Gears trio of presenters Richard Hammond, James May and Jeremy Clarkson get up to their usual antics at the Top Gear Festival at Durbans Moses Mabhida Stadium yesterday. The event attracted 64 000 motoring enthusiasts at the weekend.

Durban ratepayers paid at least R25 000 for eThekwini councillors to attend the Top Gear motoring festival which was held at Moses Mabhida Stadium at the weekend.

Speaker Logie Naidoo said complimentary tickets for councillors were only R250 each and 100 were made available on a first-come, first served basis. This despite an assurance by deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala, in a committee meeting two months ago, that no free tickets would be given to councillors.

However, DA councillor Warwick Chapman said on Sunday that all councillors, about 200, had been given suite tickets which should have cost about R1 000 each.

Durban Tourism head Philip Sithole told The Mercury that it was common practice for sponsors to get complimentary tickets.

“How do you evaluate an event if you were not there?”

Some councillors opted to give their complimentary tickets away to those less fortunate than them. Sithole defended this, saying the tickets were fully transferable.

“If I give you a ticket, it is up to you to decide what you want to do with it,” he said.

DA councillor Tex Collins said: “The tickets were sponsored as part of the deal. Most of us didn’t use the tickets. I gave mine to an unemployed person,” he said.

Chapman said irrespective of what anybody said, the tickets were funded out of taxpayers’ money.

“Councillors were given one suite ticket each, which must have been pricey,” he said.

Chapman said he and councillor Gill Noyce gave their tickets to two senior citizens.

Ismail Cassimjee of the Minority Front said all councillors had been given tickets. “Due to the Youth Day celebration and commitments in various wards I think many councillors were committed.”

On Sunday Sithole said 80 percent of the tickets for the event had been sold out a week before the start and the rest were sold on Friday.

He said at least 60 000 people flocked to the event over the weekend, of whom 20 000 were estimated to have from outside KZN.

“Over the next two years we want to leverage the Top Gear brand and affirm the city as an eventing city,” said Sithole. The city has secured the event until 2014.

ACDP MPL and member of the legislature’s sport portfolio committee, Joanne Downs, said as far as she was aware no MPLs or members of the sport committee had been given free tickets.

She said the Top Gear show could have positive economic spinoffs for Durban. However, if 200 tickets had been given away, this had to be weighed against how many were sold, and based on this, if it had been viable to spend so much money on the event. - The Mercury