eThekwini Municipality spent over R8m on virtual concerts
The show was to “encourage the community to stay at home and educate them about health practices” during the lockdown. But seemingly, the top leadership was not aware of the concert and spending spree which prompted Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda to suspend the programme last month.
The funds were used to pay for live-streaming, marketing and publicity, catering, furniture and decor, artist and motivational speakers among the items, according to a report that was presented to the community services committee this week. The City’s Parks and Recreation and Culture department, headed by Thembinkosi Ngcobo, facilitated the virtual concerts which took place from April to last month on digital platforms, including Facebook and YouTube.
The programme known as PRC TV, featured performances by various musicians and speakers on different topics including health, fitness, entertainment and gospel among them. The sessions were broadcast live from 9am until 5pm. The report which was signed by the City’s chief executive officer, Krish Kumar, and acting city manager Sipho Cele for approval, came under scrutiny as opposition parties said they were not consulted. The report was rejected and referred to the municipal public accounts committee for investigation.
Kaunda’s suspension of the event irked artists who protested at the city hall demanding the concert resume. Mluleki Mntungwa, mayoral spokesperson said Kaunda had asked for the reports detailing all financial implications about the virtual concerts.
“The PRC TV programmes were suspended until the leadership was furnished with all the details,” said Mntungwa.
At the time Kaunda reassured all artists that had performed during this live-streaming they would be paid and the City would move with speed to attend to internal issues that resulted in the suspension.
“Once we are done, we will communicate our next course of action. Let me reiterate, it has not been cancelled but suspended,” said Kaunda in the post-meeting statement with the artists.
In the report, Ngcobo said the lockdown presented a challenge for the creative industry as all projects that were planned were postponed. He said this had a negative social-economic impact on the creative sector, where no income was to be earned due to lockdown. He said the parks department invited stakeholders with proposals to intervene.
Musa Gumede, the deputy city manager for community and emergency services, who also signed in support of the report and budget, declined to comment. He said the matter was still to be discussed by the executive committee, although the events had taken place.
Msawakhe Mayisela, City spokesperson, said the matter was receiving attention from the leadership and further details would be made public.
Kaunda said the City would not derive any joy from turning its back on artists under his stewardship.
Yogis Govender, DA Exco member said that this kind of expenditure must be rejected with contempt especially when numerous calls had been made for austerity measures to be invoked within the treasury, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This unit has continuously flaunted its wasteful expenditure, often spending it, running ‘projects’ without first seeking the consultation of the portfolio committee. We have had enough of this blatant disregard for taxpayers' money especially when the world is financially distressed due to the impact of Covid-19. What we found equally concerning was the number of top-level management that signed off on this project,” she said.
Mdu Nkosi, IFP Exco member said the mayor and acting City manager has been tested on what action will be taken against implicated officials. He said they had raised issues about the parks department.
“They operate like an independent entity. We want to see if the mayor and City manager will take action which will set a precedent,” Nkosi said.