Cape Town’s minstrel leaders this week unpacked a paper trail of how they spent millions of rands in public funds, as political leaders called on them to come clean.
Richard Stemmet and Kevin Momberg, the chairman and chief executive respectively of the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association (CTMCA), have been at the centre of a struggle involving power, politicians and money that boiled over this week.
The Cape Cultural and Carnival Committee (CCCC) has been battling with Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille after they called off the annual Tweede Nuwe Jaar minstrel parade hours before it was to take place on Monday.
They said they called it off for logistical reasons – lack of parking and buses, while holding the parade on a working day would affect business.
De Lille said she wanted their expenses audited as the city had paid them to organise the cancelled parade, now set for next Saturday.
Stemmet and Momberg, along with Cape Malay choirs and Christmas bands mostly on the Cape Flats, are part of the CCCC, which was launched in November last year.
De Lille signed an agreement with this committee that it would for the first time organise festive season events.
Previously, the City of Cape Town organised these events.
The city gave the CCCC R2 million to organise four cultural events. The money was paid into the CTMCA’s account, as the recently launched CCCC still had to finalise its paperwork, said Stemmet.
The R2m was to fund “toilets, fencing, private security, safety officers, medical services, logistics and public relations”.
The city also offered “venue rental waivers, generators, waste management, traffic services, metro police, law enforcement, disaster risk management, fire services, road traffic signage, street parking pay rental and poster fee waiver”, valued at R1.65m, for the parade.
The Western Cape government gave the CCCC a further R2.35m for the four events.
The parade was originally scheduled for January 3, but the date was changed out of respect for the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday celebrations which Muslim minstrels would observe on that date.
A new date was set for January 5, but Stemmet said the CCCC had already booked buses from Golden Arrow for January 3, but that the company did not have sufficient buses for January 5.
“We then needed to rent private buses and told De Lille this. The buses would cost at least R5 000 each and we need 200 buses to transport people to the city. We didn’t have the budget for this,” he said.
Stemmet accused De Lille and the city of “trying to discredit us and show that we can’t organise this event”.
“They have derailed us… Now De Lille is making a noise about the crumbs they have given us to organise these events.”
He said the three other festive season events the CCCC had to organise included the Voorsmaakie on Reconciliation Day, a Christmas band parade from the Bo-Kaap to the Grand Parade on Darling Street on Christmas Eve, and a Cape Malay choir parade on New Year’s Eve.
Stemmet and Momberg said their expenses included hiring buses, paying a service provider R300 000 to erect fencing along the routes, as well as providing security guards.
De Lille’s spokeswoman Zara Nicholson said yesterday the CCCC “has to keep accounts and report on the expenditure of the funding”.
“The CTMCA, as the receiving authority, must provide an independently audited set of statements to verify how expenditure was incurred. The city also retains the right to conduct a separate independent audit through the offices of the auditor general should it require a subsequent audit.”
This applied to all recipients of event funding, who were required to submit an event performance report as well as audited financial statements. If the funding was not adequately accounted for, subsequent funding could be blocked.
The provincial government’s cultural affairs and sport department has found no fault with the CCCC’s finances.
Annerie Pruis-Le Roux, its head of communications, said the department “allocated a total of R2 236 910 for various programmes and activities” to the CCCC.
She confirmed this was for the “Malay choirs street march, the Christmas bands street march, and various minstrel and Malay choir competitions”.
She also confirmed that “following a collective decision taken by representatives of the minstrels, Malay choirs and Christmas bands”, the CTMCA was the conduit for these funds.
She said Stemmet and Momberg’s CTMCA had, in the past, “complied with applicable requirements and submitted audited financial statements”.
Momberg and Stemmet said De Lille and others could go ahead with the audit.
“They have been getting a free show and paid events companies to walk away with the money. They give us crumbs and want to kick up a fuss,” said Stemmet.
“The money they have given us does not filter down to the teams. They do not benefit... We don’t make money out of this event. The money goes purely to services.
“We are going to show them an audit and all the paperwork. We will show her where we spent the money.”
Funds from the city and provincial government are relatively little compared to the millions the National Lotteries Board has granted the CTMCA over the years.
NLB’s acting chief executive Phillemon Letwaba said they had paid Stemmet and Momberg’s association R45.5m between 2002 and last year.
Letwaba said the CTMCA had not been successful every year they applied for funding. Their biggest grant was R27.3m, in 2001. Last year, they received R13.75m.
Letwaba said while this money was paid to the CTMCA, it was also for its partners on various projects.
Stemmet and Momberg said they used the lottery funds to buy instruments for minstrel bands, paid each of the 40 troupes between R7 000 and R30 000 a year to operate, and bought trophies for their competition winners.
The two also run a business in Lansdowne where they have set up a factory to produce minstrel costumes, for which they use Lotto funding.
While there is a conflict of interest, and they benefit financially from this arrangement, they defended their right to produce the costumes.
Momberg said: “Another company made the costumes years ago. The owner didn’t want to make them any more. He asked Stemmet if he wanted to buy the business, and he did. He could see that Stemmet is good at business.”