Cape Town - Future government funding for the annual minstrel events is in the balance as the City of Cape Town pulls out all the stops to find out what happened to more than R40 million in Lottery funding paid to the Cape Minstrel Carnival Association since 2012.
JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, lodged a complaint with the Public Protector on Monday about the possible misappropriation of public funds. The city is also preparing papers to take the minstrels to court for holding illegal marches on Saturday night.
“There is something suspicious afoot here,” he said after meeting the acting regional representative of the Public Protector, Alfred Lose.
“The leadership is deliberately trying to provoke this conflict.”
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association chief executive Kevin Momberg’s cellphone was switched off on Monday and the Cape Minstrel Carnival Association’s office referred all questions to its legal team.
Attorney Naseera Parker, whose firm represents the Cape Minstrel Carnival Association, issued a statement on Monday.
“Our client has received numerous requests from the media for comment relating to an alleged request by the City of Cape Town, or one of its ward councillors, to the Public Protector’s office to investigate alleged misappropriation of funds received by it, from the National Lotteries Board.
“Neither we, nor our client has had sight of the alleged complaint or allegations contained therein and as such we are not in a position to make any formal statement with regards thereto at this time, save to state that our client denies, categorically, any misappropriation of funds.”
Parker said the association was contractually restrained from making public comments about its relationship with the city, or from publishing the terms of its agreement.
“We have, on behalf of our client, requested permission from the City of Cape Town for our client to make such public statements as it deems necessary in defence of its position. We currently await their response.”
But the city’s actions have outraged the ANC, with provincial leader Marius Fransman saying the DA-led city was going “out of its way to punish all minstrels for their colourful participation in the ANC’s 103rd birthday celebration… by prohibiting their free movement and street entertainment this weekend”.
Cosatu called the city’s stance “an attack on the culture of coloured people”.
But Smith said the city had been misled by the minstrel association when it applied for funding last year.
“The city was led to believe that it did not have access to any other funding and that is why it was putting pressure on the city (for money).”
The city and Western Cape provincial government signed an agreement with the Cape Cultural and Carnival Committee in November to ensure that the minstrel parades and events were properly managed.
The committee included representatives of the minstrel associations and Malay bands and Christmas choirs, and is led by Richard Stemmet, one of the leaders of the Cape Minstrel Carnival Association, and Momberg.
As part of this agreement, the city allocated R3.65m for the event. This amount is the metro’s largest allocation for any event in the city.
A further R2.37m came from the provincial government.
Smith said they found out about the R40m from the Lottery Board only once this agreement was signed.
Although the Cape Minstrel Carnival Association has indicated that some of the money is for a Carnival Heritage Museum, Smith said troupes did not know anything about the building.
He said the minstrel parades had cost no more than R6m when they were organised by the municipality.
“There is nothing different in the nature of the parades now.”
The city would look at Stemmet’s further involvement in the Cape Cultural and Carnival Committee.
Lose said it would take about five days to assess the city’s complaint and to decide whether it warranted further investigation by the Cape Town or the Pretoria office.
“We have just received a complaint from Mr Smith against the Cape Minstrel Carnival Association.
“(An amount of) R57 million is alleged to have been given to the minstrels. The city and the province also donated money.”
Lose said the Public Protector’s office would consider the information provided by the city to decide whether it had a mandate to investigate further.
Meanwhile, Smith said the minstrels had also flouted city bylaws and national legislation by marching illegally at the weekend.
“We’ve spoken, we’ve pleaded, we’ve spoken to them nicely but we don’t want to get to a situation where there are violent fisticuffs between the metro police and the minstrels.”
He said only three of the six troupes that marched at the weekend were from the Bo-Kaap.
The city and the minstrel associations reached an out-of-court settlement on Saturday, after the city lodged an urgent court interdict to stop the marches. As part of this agreement, the associations agreed that only local troops would march and then only until midnight.
Smith said the celebrations continued past 3am.
“We will need to go back to court with the video footage that shows there was a breach of the agreement.”
But Fransman said the city had acted as if the minstrels were still “subservient slaves that need to be disciplined, whipped into place and prohibited from indulging in their own culture”.
Meanwhile, the city has confirmed it will still conduct an internal audit of the money that was paid to the Cape Cultural and Carnival Committee.