Durban - The IFP has defended the million-rand sponsorship of party leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s birthday celebrations, after political parties criticised the provincial government for the donation.
The provincial treasury revealed on Thursday that, through the Department of Arts and Culture, a sponsorship of about R1.2million had paid for the venue.
Several celebrations were held in August and September as part of Buthelezi’s 90th birthday.
The National Freedom Party described the sponsorship of the event as the celebration “bash” of “IFP president Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi”.
“The NFP respects the IFP president but also believes that we must not compromise the limited state resources which are supposed to better the lives of KwaZulu-Natal citizens,” said NFP leader Vikizitha Mlotshwa.
DA provincial leader Francois Rodgers said the sponsorship was not a good way to spend government money and set a bad example.
“I do not believe that a government should be paying for an individual leader’s birthday party. Will this be done for other stalwarts in the DA or the NFP?” he asked.
IFP leader Joshua Mazibuko fired back, saying the event was not a “bash for the IFP president” as the NFP described it. He said the criticism by the NFP was based on petty party politics.
“According to the department’s officials, the function to which they contributed was held in August when all patriotic people in South Africa were honouring God for the life of the prince and his selfless service to the people of South Africa. It is not the first time that both the national and provincial governments have honoured men and women of our country who made significant contributions towards the type of society we now have,” he said.
Sipho Nkosi, the chairperson of the finance committee, said it was important to show appreciation by celebrating Buthelezi. “Even when the item was brought up, there was not a single member of the finance committee that objected to that spending.”
ANC chief whip Nontembeko Boyce said the government had committed to being part of the celebrations.
“To us, Prince Buthelezi is not just another politician or leader, but rather a senior statesman who has contributed in his own way to our body politic. We also saw the celebration as celebrating those held in high regard while they are still alive,” she said.
Arts and culture spokesperson Mac Makhathini said the sponsorship was not about politics, but the stature of the leader.
“The request to sponsor the event was received. The matter served before the executive council, and based on Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s standing in society, it resolved and tasked the Department of Arts and Culture to pay for the venue hire for the event. An amount of R1.2m was provided and paid,” said Makhathini.