Zulu maidens will take part in the royal Reed Dance Festival or Umkhosi woMhlanga next weekend. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng
Durban - The eThekwini Municipality will spend nearly R500 000 to hire carpets to be used at the upcoming Umkhosi Womhlanga (Reed Dance Festival) next weekend.

It emerged this week that the city has budgeted R1.6m for the annual festival held at King Goodwill Zwelithini’s Nyokeni palace in Nongoma.

Of that amount, R480 000 will be spent on the carpet.

The expenditure was approved by the full council on Thursday with mayor Zandile Gumede saying support was being given to the maidens to “ensure they were safe and comfortable while attending the Reed Dance”, the city said in a statement.

According to a report submitted to the executive committee this week, there are two carpets, each measuring 30mx70m.

Each costs R240 000 which involves the transportation, the setting down and removal of the carpet after the event.

The carpets will be used for maidens to sleep on in the marquee tents in which they will be accommodated.

According to the city, about 6000 maidens from eThekwini will be participating in the Reed Dance.

The issue came up for discussion during the Exco meeting on Wednesday when the report was tabled.

DA caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango, while saying his party supports the Reed Dance, questioned the amount being spent to hire the carpets.

“It’s very scary what kind of carpet is this?” Mncwango quipped.

Mayor Zandile Gumede explained that marquees are set up at eNyokeni and that the department of arts and culture was in the process of building permanent accommodation in the palace.

“Colleagues, I am really tired of Mncwango’s allegations every day.

“Let us approve this, whoever says no, then it’s fine.

“If there is anything untoward then the officials must suffer the consequences.

“We are not gonna sit here and talk about rands and cents...

“Why would we sit down and talk about a carpet?” asked Gumede.

The maidens will travel from Durban in 62 buses next Thursday and will return to the city on Sunday.

Of the buses, 18 will be provided by the department of arts and culture.

The city will provide 42 buses at a cost of R756 000 and R30 000 for two buses for the disabled.

The maidens will be accompanied by 20 officials who, according to the report, will be assisting in “co-ordinating the maidens during this period from eThekwini to KwaNongoma”.

The mayor said the officials had found accommodation closer to where the maidens would be situated.

Twenty councillors, Amakhosi and four senior officials are also expected to attend the event.

The city has budgeted R288 000 for catering for the maidens. This was for 4 800 meal packs.

A total of R78000 was allocated for the accommodation for officials.

On Thursday, The Mercury phoned a marquee hire company which said while it does not have a carpet that size, it would charge R40/m2.

That translates to R84 000 for a section of carpet big enough to cover a 30mx70m space.

A carpet seller, also in Durban, said for carpet sheeting covering the same area, the cost would be R384 000 to fit a 30mx70m area.

The Mercury