Durban - A decision on Wednesday by KwaZulu-Natal Treasury officials to ground Durban’s Land, Sea and Air Show and KZN Winter Air Tour for next year by pulling R36 million in funding has left the industry and affected district municipalities “shocked” and “devastated”.
The decision also means the much-anticipated Zululand Race of Champions aviation event, scheduled for August 22 and 23, has had to be cancelled.
Zululand District municipality mayor, Mpiyakhe Hlatshwayo, told The Mercury last night the decision was not only a “shock”, but had come too late for them to come up with alternative funding.
Hlatshwayo said it would take about R1.5m to get the event up and running again.
“This has cost us a lot. We have done our budgets for the year. We haven’t been given any time to come up with another plan.
“The Protea Hotel was fully booked, we had a gala dinner planned. All the B&Bs and the catering facilities made a lot of money out of this event.”
MEC for Finance Belinda Scott said she was unaware of the decision and it was too late last night for her to give an official response. “However, what I do know is that we are in a fiscal blitz. Nice-to-haves are coming off the agenda,” she said.
According to provincial government insiders, who asked not to be named because the issue was “too sensitive”, an investigation into the decision was under way.
Brian Emmenis, whose company, Capital Sounds/KZN Air Events, has managed the shows in partnership with the provincial government for the past three years, said he believed the decision was made because Scott was new in office and had not experienced the events, whereas previous head of Treasury, Ina Cronje, had attended them.
“I am shocked and devastated. We have become the destination for the biggest aviation events in the country.
“We have hosted the largest number of people at any air shows in the country ever. We have come out with a clean audit, we have met all the requirements,” he said.
“But yesterday [Wednesday] we got a phone call saying our tender for the next three years had been turned down. No reasons were given, nothing.”
He said 130 aircraft were scheduled to participate in the Zululand event.
Emmenis said he was now in talks to try to raise private funders for next year’s season.
In May, the provincial Treasury’s Clive Coetzee said that air shows were an integral part of the provincial government’s plans to boost tourism in rural towns and that R30m had already been spent upgrading rural airports such as those at Ulundi, Margate, Richards Bay, Newcastle and Mkuze.
The attendance for the shows last year were: Newcastle 7 418, Mkuze 2 500, Ulundi 6 000, Richards Bay 1 635, Pietermaritzburg 2 444, and Margate 2 483.