ENYOKENI - Hundreds of maidens from the eThekwini Municipality were left fuming when they arrived to a bare-floored marquee on Friday night.
The municipality spent about R500 000 hiring carpets for them to sleep on during the annual Reed Celebration, formally known as uMkhosi woMhlanga, in Nongoma.
The maidens were woken up in the early hours on Saturday to be given their mats, which they were told would make their rest in the tents at Enyokeni more comfortable.
What arrived were doormat-quality carpets and some maidens rejected the gesture.
The royal house provided some maidens with mattresses while others slept on blankets and huddled in groups around the marquee as they tried to keep warm when the temperatures dropped below 20°C in the normally scorching town.
“We didn’t bring anything to sleep on since we thought the carpets would have been laid out before our arrival,” said Nokukhanya Mthembu of Clermont, west of Durban.
The maidens said the carpets eventually arrived just before 2am, more than five hours after their arrival.
“We don’t know who brought them because the security guards woke us up and laid the carpets around the marquee. Some of the girls refused to get up, saying they needed to get proper sleep after being on the road for five hours,” Mthembu said.
The municipality has not named the suppliers.
Buyi Ncayiya, 26, from uMlazi,Buyi Ncayiya, 26, who has been attending the Reed Dance since she was 14, said the late arrival of the carpets did not give them enough time to rest as they needed to get up at around 3am to bath before the long day.
“In previous years the municipality never provided us with carpets, so we always brought our own sleeping bags. But this time we were promised carpets and given the impression they would be nice and plush, considering how much was spent on them,” she said angrily.
Another maiden, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the city owed the maidens an explanation because what happened was unacceptable.
“I’m really disappointed in the municipality. This is a joke. You can’t expect people to sleep on those rough carpets which are used for car interiors or as doormats. We don’t know for sure how much was spent on them but they’re definitely not worth R500 000,” she said.
eThekwini mayor, Zandile Gumede’s spokesperson, Mthunzi Gumede, said he was not aware the carpets arrived after midnight but the mayor would seek a full report from the service provider.
Asked who provided the carpets, Gumede said: “I don’t know who was awarded the contract but we will ask the community participation department, which is responsible for this event.” The municipality would take appropriate action, he said.
DA eThekwini caucus and provincial leader, Zwakele Mncwango, who attended the ceremony, said: “We do support this event but we don’t support the looting of public money.”
Mncwango said he had no doubt someone from city hall would benefit from the inflated cost of the carpets.