Mbongeni Ngema

PLAYWRIGHT and producer Mbongeni Ngema says he is willing to rebuild the KZN Music House, which was “like a baby” to him.

The facility closed its doors in Greyville, Durban, more than a year ago amid allegations of corruption and fraud by its managers and officials from the Department of Arts and Culture. This prompted arts and culture MEC Bongi Moloi-Sithole to launch a forensic probe.

Ngema said the appointment of clueless and greedy officials had precipitated the collapse of KZN Music House.

The facility was established to promote budding local artists and put an end to performers having to relocate to places like Johannesburg to find work.

“I am disappointed and broken to see my vision destroyed like this,” Ngema said.

“I was the one who came up with the idea to set up a recording and music facility in KZN to develop local talent and to prevent artists from relocating to Joburg.

“I approached Zweli Mkhize when he was still MEC for finance and economic development with my idea and they listened and bought into my vision,” he said.

Ngema, who wrote and produced the award-winning film, Sarafina, was the first head of the facility when it was launched in 2009 by the KwaZulu-Natal government.

He left in 2015 after his contract was not renewed by then arts and culture MEC Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha.

The head of the arts and culture department, Ntokozo Chonco, said fraud and corruption charges had been opened against the implicated managers at the Music House and officials from the department after the forensic investigation.

A case was opened at the Loop Street police station in Pietermaritzburg this week.

The facility was established with a R15-million studio and received funding from the pro- vincial government.

Said Ngema: “We bought equipment overseas and produced a number of artists, including DJ Happy Girl, Afrosoul singer Mbuso Khoza and many others.

“Those who took over from me destroyed my vision and the future of KwaZulu-Natal artists. This is what happens when MECs employ people who are clueless, who do not know anything about music and have no passion.

“I am heartbroken because that project was like my baby.”

It is alleged that the former management blew millions of rands on expensive cars, chauffeurs, bodyguards and security for their homes.

Hawks spokesperson Simphiwe Mhlongo said the Pietermaritzburg Commercial Crime Unit was investigating a case of fraud and corruption.

“No arrests have been made at this stage,” said Mhlongo.

Ngema said he would like to see the implicated officials face the music for destroying a much-needed facility.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE