The National Youth Development Agency's chairperson Andile Lungisa. Photo: Dumisani Sibeko, The Star

The 17th World Festival of Youth and Students cost R100 million to stage, instead of the R69m first reported, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) said on Tuesday.

The announcement was made at NYDA headquarters in Midrand by executive chairman Andile Lungisa, who said the festival cost R100,000,245.42.

The event was held at the Tshwane Events Centre in Pretoria in December with the theme: “Let's defeat imperialism for a world of peace, solidarity and social transformation”.

Both the youth movements of the Democratic Alliance and the Freedom Front Plus have criticised what they said was wasteful expenditure, with the DA Youth calling for the NYDA's board to be sacked.

The agency's chief executive officer Steven Ngubeni said it had raised funds, and was still doing so, to ensure none of the NYDA's own budget was used to finance the festival.

Prior to the festival, the NYDA said it had obtained R40m in funding from the National Lotteries Board (NLB), R27m from the presidency and another R3m from the arts and culture department.

NLB spokesman Sershan Naidoo said it had paid a first tranche of R24m, but that before it transferred the remaining R16m, the NYDA would have to submit a progress report, with substantiating information, detailing how the funds were used.

“And then we have got to just cross check and verify,” he said.

The NLB and the NYDA came in for severe criticism last year after it was announced that R40m had been allocated to the funding of the festival.

Ngubeni said the NYDA had never said the festival would cost only R69m, but that it had merely disclosed the amounts for which it had received funding.

He said the R69m cost had been “speculation” by the media and that the NYDA had received a further R5.5m from provincial governments, R1.8m from the department of communications and that registration fees from participants at the festival had generated another R2.3m.

An undisclosed amount of funding had also come from municipalities.

He said the NYDA would submit a report to Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane on Tuesday and that all funding could be accounted for.

The event was originally meant to be held in Johannesburg, at an estimated cost of R340m, but moved to Pretoria to cut costs.

The NYDA said it had expected about 30,000 people to attend, but on Tuesday Lungisa said that 15,000 people had attended, of whom 7000 were from abroad.

He lamented the media's coverage of the event.

“It seems from the beginning the South African media did not display any positive attitude to the hosting of the festival, leading to a multitude of negative media reports.”

At the time, it was reported that delegates played “kissing games” while waiting for the festival to start after delays were announced over the loudspeakers.

There were transport problems and some speakers did not arrive.

According to a programme distributed at the start of the event, ANC veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale and Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu were to address thousands of young people from over 100 countries at various sessions.

Organisers said none of the speakers had confirmed their attendance and would not be present.

There were also problems with access to food and complaints about caterers not being paid.

Lungisa said that in contrast, international media had reported favourably on the event.

He said that one of the tangible benefits of the conference could be seen in the youth's involvement in events that subsequently unfolded in Egypt and Tunisia.

“We continue to witness delegates from Egypt and Tunisia who participated in the festival leading from the front in the campaign for democracy in their respective countries.”

DA Youth leader Makashule Gana said in a statement he was “appalled” at the amount spent on the festival.

“I was surprised that Mr Lungisa emphasised that the R83 million NYDA had raised came from outside the ordinary NYDA budget, as if that excused this flagrant misuse of public funds. It doesn't,” said Gana.

“Millions of South African school children go to school without having desks to sit at or chairs to sit on and libraries remain a pipe dream for most public schools,” said Gana.

“These are the sorts of issues we should be tackling, not rubbing elbows with the blossoming autocrats in the youth divisions of Zanu PF and the Korean Workers Party.”

He said DA Youth had previously called on President Jacob Zuma to sack the NYDA board.

“In the face of this evidence, we reiterate that call.”

Freedom Front Plus youth spokesman Wouter Wessels said that as it was taxpayers' money which was wasted on the festival, the public had a right to know exactly where the total amount came from and how it was spent.

He said the FF Plus submitted a complaint to the Public Protector last month requesting the investigation of “alleged irregularities surrounding the NYDA and the World Festival.”

“It is of critical need that this agency is investigated and the government intervenes in the running of the agency. The NYDA managed to collect R100m to host a festival. Why can they not with the same vigour manage to execute their mandate with regards to youth development?” Wessels asked. -

Sapa