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Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation accused of wasting R7m while artists, athletes suffer

MEC of the Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation in Gauteng, Mbali Hlophe. Picture: Twitter

MEC of the Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation in Gauteng, Mbali Hlophe. Picture: Twitter

Published Jan 26, 2022

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Pretoria - The Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation in Gauteng has dismissed claims by the DA that it injected a staggering R7 million into a provincial sports awards event, saying they were devoid of any truth.

The DA this week put pressure on MEC Mbali Hlophe to explain how her department spent R7m on the event, hosted on November 13 last year at Gallagher Convention Centre.

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According to the DA, the money should have been disbursed to struggling athletes and artists who did not receive the Covid-19 relief grant.

Hlophe's spokesperson, Nkosana Mtolo, said the DA’’s claims were based on “gossip” and therefore not "productive".

He said it was a lie that the department had not spent on Covid-19 relief for artists and athletes, as suggested by the party.

DA’s Kingsol Chabalala criticised the spending amidst many Gauteng artists and athletes having lost their livelihoods and being forced into unemployment.

He said the department went on to spend millions despite his party “cautioning the department on excessive spending on this annual event’.

Mtolo said: “The department has to date spent R19,6m on Covid relief, from which close to 3 000 artists and athletes have benefited. Gauteng was further congratulated by Minister (of arts and culture) Nathi Mthethwa for being the number one province with the largest amount for relief, accounting for 44% of the national count.

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“They are followed by the Western Cape, where the DA governs, who account for only 11%. It’s therefore laughable that the DA claims to care about artists and athletes yet where it governs it does not place its spend on the very artists and athletes.”

Chabalala had claimed the money could have been used to provide the relief grant to 1 166 athletes and artists, at a rate of R6 000 each.

Regarding the R7m budget, Mtolo said: “The DA mischievously does not indicate that the department had budgeted R9m for the sports awards this financial year, but spent R6.9m instead."

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He added more funds were allocated to the school sports and arts Wednesday leagues development programme.

Mtolo also rubbished claims that the department spent large amounts on hiring venues for the sports awards.

He said: “The big cost drivers for the event was the creative industry; which includes all technical expertise to host the event: these are individuals who work behind the scenes to make the event a success.

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“Further, including mainstream and development artists such as Oskido, Kabza de Small, Kamo Mphela, AKA, Costa Tich, Brenda Mtambo, Young Stunna, Lulo Cafe, Benny Chill, African Chill, Smangori Dancers, City Boyz, Bayeza Marimba, and Tembisa Red Devil’s; our pantsula dancers from Tembisa now flying our flag high internationally.”

According to Mtolo, additional costs went to the prize money for the winning athletes, the car given away as part of the competition, and towards the live production by SABC1.

The DA had said that in the 2019/2020 financial year, the department spent R9,494,000,00 on the same sports event.

Since the 2012/2013 financial year to the 2020/2021 financial year, the department has spent over R61m on this annual event, Chabalala said.

Mtolo questioned where the DA received “its numbers that tally to this amount”. He denied that the department spent R9.5m on the awards in 2019/2020.

“Even if this had been the case, the DA is making a mountain over what would have been a less than 1% investment over 10 years. If the R61m is to be calculated against the department’s just over R8 billion allocation over 10 years, as the lion’s share of our budget goes towards developmental sports and arts activities in the province,” he said.

Chabalala said: “The DA will not hesitate to hold MEC Hlophe to account for the department funds to be allocated according to priorities and for the benefit of all our residents, not a few individuals who have access to the department tenders."

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