The R500 000 carpets hired by eThekwini Municipality to provide comfort for some of the maidens who attended the Reed Dance at Nyokeni Palace in Nongoma at the weekend.
Durban - The DA’s provincial leader has called for a probe into the eThekwini City Council's R500 000 Reed Dance carpets which was reportedly delivered late, was not installed and did not make maidens any more comfortable than without it.

Zwakele Mncwango said he had on Sunday written to eThekwini city manager Sipho Nzuza calling on him to investigate.

The amount of R480 000 for the carpets was approved by full council almost two weeks ago, as part of the R1.6m budgeted by the city for the annual Umkhosi Womhlanga held at King Goodwill Zwelithini’s Nyokeni palace in Nongoma at the weekend.

Mncwango wants Nzuza to probe the “actual” amount for the carpet hire as he believes, “someone at City Hall” benefited unduly.

“How on earth does one justify to the public spending R500 000 on a carpet. I don’t think it was more than R100 to hire that thing,” said Mncwango, who saw the carpet at the ceremony which he attends and supports every year.

Read: PICS: Durban's R500k hired carpets anger maidens

The price included installation, but Mncwango said the yet-to-be-named company from which the carpet was hired, dropped it off after 2am and security guards had to bring it in and lay it down.

He said buying foam mattresses would have been cheaper and more comfortable.

While Mncwango supported the desire to give maidens dignity, he said carpets were meant for walking on and not sleeping.

“Because of this, there is a negative focus on the Reed Dance. This is denting the image of the event, but we cannot blindly support or allow the daylight looting of public funds.”

Mncwango said a permanent structure would be more cost-effective in the long run.

The IFP agreed, saying a permanent structure had been in the pipeline for some time.

Phumzile Buthelezi, IFP provincial spokesperson on arts and culture, said the price was shocking.

“I can’t believe that is the real price of the carpets and, secondly, for a municipality to spend that much is wasteful expenditure.”

Besides her political portfolio, Buthelezi is also a Zulu princess and is very involved in cultural ceremonies like the Reed Dance.

She said that while sleeping on the floor was not comfortable, maidens only spent one or two nights subjected to this.

She said the maidens and their minders know to bring foam mattresses if they want to make themselves more comfortable. Many of the maidens sleep on grass mats.

“In the 33 years of Umkhosi Womhlanga, there has been a major problem with sleeping arrangements. It is not ideal, so there has been talk about a permanent structure for some time,” she said.

Department of Arts and Culture spokesperson Mack Makhathini said, as the main organising department, they were responsible for the acquisition of tents. But districts, municipalities and provinces were free to decide on any provisions for the interiors.

According to The Mercury’s sister paper the Sunday Tribune, a maiden referred to the carpet as that used for doormats or for the inside of cars.

Some maidens refused to get up for the carpet to be laid. They were furious as they had not brought mattresses or sleeping bags as they had done before, due to the promise of a carpets for their comfort.

Mthunzi Gumede, spokesperson for Mayor Zandile Gumede, said she had requested a comprehensive report from those in the municipality responsible for the co-ordination of activities related to the Reed Dance.

Only then would she be in a position to comment or take action.

The Mercury