DURBAN - In August 2013, the former editor of the Sunday Tribune, Jovial Rantao, wrote this column in the newspaper, connecting the dots and asking what had happened to more than R20 million that had been budgeted for a jazz festival that never took place.
The text below was written and published by former editor Jovial Rantao in the print edition of the Sunday on August 11, 2013.
The exposé carried exclusively and prominently by the Sunday Tribune last week (August 2013) should have all citizens of KwaZulu-Natal and indeed the country deeply worried.
We should all be annoyed about the fact that the province spent R28 million of our taxpayers' money and has nothing to show for it. What started as a noble project to secure a signature entertainment event to attract tourism and economic investment, has turned into what seems to be a classic case of fraud and corruption. Simply put, our millions have gone down the drain, literally. The money trail is very simple.
A consortium entered into an agreement with the KZN provincial government, through the Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism, to bring the North Sea Jazz Festival to Durban. The North Sea Jazz Festival is internationally acknowledged as the biggest jazz festival brand in the world, and has a fantastic reputation for attracting mega stars from all forms of jazz. The event, if it took place, would attract thousands of jazz and fun lovers to Durban.
These visitors would bring with them much-needed investment. We just have to look at the wonders that the annual Cape Town Jazz Festival, formerly known as the North Sea Jazz Festival, has done to the economy of that city. You can't get a flight or a bed in Cape Town during the weekend of the jazz festival.
A total of R28m was paid to the consortium so they could begin to prepare. The long and short of it is that the bulk of the money has disappeared, there is no concert and the rights the KZN government paid for, with our money, do not accrue to the government. The KZN government is desperately trying to get at least R11m back.
So, someone has benefited from the R17m that has disappeared and is sure to be living it up in luxurious houses and cruising around in expensive cars, all at our expense. The government must do something about the disappearance of the millions.
Government normally responds to this kind of situation by establishing a task team or appointing a private firm of forensic investigators. I think this will be the wrong way to go. From the prima facie evidence in the possession of the Sunday Tribune, which the KZN government also has, it is very clear that a case of fraud and corruption could easily be established.
The KZN government, the DEAT, must urgently refer this matter to the law enforcement agencies so that justice can be sought for the people of this province.
R28m is a lot of money and could have been used to improve the lives of the poorest of the poor. It is also clear to us that there are individuals who should, on the basis of what we have seen, be asked to answer these charges in court.
Members of the SAPS must have the pleasure of using the exclusive steel bracelets around their hands and march them to the nearest no-star hotel owned by the SAPS.
These individuals who pocketed the millions should be made to account for every cent of our money that they have spent. I found the response of one of the individuals to our questions interesting.
Sunday Tribune reporter Jeff Wicks posed a number of questions to Charmaine Cornille, who did not respond to the specific questions. Instead, she made allegations that fraud and corruption had been committed in the DEAT. The Sunday Tribune, among others, wanted to know why the KZN government paid millions for rights that were issued in the name of the government.
Cornille's behaviour was quite dodgy. She acted as if she had something to hide. If she didn't, then she should have answered questions from the Sunday Tribune in a frank and forthright manner.
As Zweli Mkhize prepares to depart from his role as premier, this is one of the last issues in his in-tray that he needs to deal with decisively. Mkhize says he does not tolerate corruption and corrupt people.
He must make sure that those who have taken the province for a R28m ride are made to pay. That's the role of our fearless provincial leader. What about us, the public? Have we got used to and normalised corruption to an extent that the theft of R28m is not enough to make us angry? Have we become tolerant of corrupt people or have they become our role models because they live the lives of our dreams?
Note: This editor's note was published on August 11, 2013, in the Sunday Tribune.