Cellphone image of ANC leader Jacob Zuma addressing a rally as part of the ruling party's election campaign in Kimberley, in the Northern Cape, Wednesday, 26 March 2014.

Durban - Opposition parties have slated the surge in official openings during election season, saying they were expensive and unnecessary.

Ribbons are being cut to launch housing projects, roads, bridges and schools. Even sewerage infrastructure initiatives are launched with some fanfare as politicians try to woo voters.

Each event means marquees, chairs, stage and mobile toilets must be hired, lunch provided and transport organised, all at the taxpayers’ expense. In many cases, entertainment is also provided.

Minority Front eThekwini councillor Patrick Pillay said the party was against these events, more so when they happened during election campaigns.

“Millions are spent and there is no need. It’s even worse when such openings happen a year or so after the project is finished,” he said.

The DA’s Zwakele Mncwango agreed, saying there was no need for a function if the community knew about and used the bridge, school or clinic concerned.

“The government spends millions on these glamorous openings. They say more needs to be done, but how do you do more if you waste money?”

NFP councillor Shaik Emam said the openings were about politics and promoting the ANC.

“That money could be spent on building more homes. If there was no corruption and no wasting of funds, we would have built many houses and roads for many more communities,” he said.

In response, the ANC’s provincial secretary, Sihle Zikalala, said the government was delivering on its promises and had to ensure communities took ownership of projects.

“How do you deliver… and then not inform people who live in those areas?” he said.

Zikalala said the launches provided opportunities for communities to be educated about their projects so they could look after them.

Political analyst Protas Madlala said official openings were used by ruling parties around the world during elections and any party which did not take advantage of this was stupid.

“I am sure if the other parties were in (the) government, they would do the same,” he said.

According to a local contractor, a government launch can cost more than R500 000, with food costing about R250 000, R20 000 for the sound system and R30 000 for decor.

Food for VIPs was charged for separately.

Marquees and chairs would be priced according to the size of the event.

In a statement by AfriForum on President Jacob Zuma’s recent visit to Elliot in the Eastern Cape, the organisation said it cost the taxpayer R300 000 just for food.

AfriForum spokesman Ian Cameron said Zuma attended the event for only two hours to open a monument honouring five Umkhonto we Sizwe soldiers.

Recent official openings include:

* March 20: The KZN MEC for Transport, Willies Mchunu, launched the Scholar Transport programme and a public transport facility (taxi rank) in Mondlo, Vryheid. About R20 million was spent on the project.

* April 1: The KZN MEC for Arts and Culture, Ntombikayise Sabhedla-Saphetha, handed over a library worth R11m in Ntambanana, in the Uthungulu district. The library serves five schools.

* April 3: The KZN MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, launched a R49m sanitation project in Emadlangeni. The project was completed last year.

* April 6: President Jacob Zuma opened the R25 billion Cornubia Human Settlements Project. The first phase was completed last year.

* April 8: The KZN MEC for Education, Peggy Nkonyeni, opened the Thembimfundo Special School in Eshowe. The R63m school started operating last year.

* April 8: KZN Transport MEC Willies Mchunu launched the upgrade of the KwaDambuza Township access roads. The project is yet to begin.

* April 11: President Jacob Zuma opened a monument in the Eastern Cape, with 72 taxis transporting guests. An ox and 20 sheep were slaughtered.

mpume [email protected]

The Mercury