The Gauteng Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation Department has coughed up close to R3million on virtual commemorative events during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The events include Youth Day, Freedom Day, and Human Rights Day. The funds were distributed among service providers, musicians, comedians, ambassadors and fitness instructors. The department indicated that the initial budget for the three events was R14m.
Over R2m was spent on Human Rights Day while close to R800000 was channelled to Freedom Day virtual celebrations. Youth Day expenses were not provided, with the department citing that payments were outstanding as the process of supply chain management and financial accounting were delayed.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a State of Disaster last March prohibited gatherings. The president’s announcement altered the way national days were going to be celebrated and commemorated. Departments and institutions have since adopted the virtual method.
The DA’s Kingsol Chabalala questioned the importance of spending millions of rand on virtual events during a national crisis.
“The department under the leadership of the MEC continues to fail to prioritise issues in terms of their importance, as they throw money in a bottomless pit of unnecessary events that do not add value to the grassroots development of sports, arts and culture,” he said.
The department further spent R490000 on a Mandela Day programme, where they partnered with US TV channel Nickelodeon. Selected local young authors were also part of this celebration, and they were selected to read their published books.
“The use of this TV channel just also defies logic as it has a mass appeal among the very same audience the department was trying to reach. What is wrong with our TV channels which are accessible to everyone in the province?
“It is clear that the department is failing to address infrastructure development challenges that are riddling them, and yet in their wisdom money is being spent on these programmes that are insignificant. As the DA we won’t leave this matter. The MEC must account for how the programmes benefited our residents.”
The department has defended the spending as necessary.
Its spokesperson Nomazwe Ntlokwana said that partnership with the TV channel was to showcase local talent in the province on a global scale.
“Mandela Day is a national day of goodwill, this year the department decided to spend it by focusing its attention on children, something that was dear to Madiba. So the department paid for the platforms their books would be profiled on,” she said.
US dancer JoJo Siwa was also part of the Mandela Day celebrations. Ntlokwana said the dancer was among the artists voted for by kids in the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. “The showcase was for the children and she is an entertainer the kids love. She is a positive role model for the kids in how she has conducted her career and continues to include kids within her brand,” she said.