Parties decry millions spent for Sopa tent: Daily Dispatch

THE Eastern Cape government has spent around R10-million since 2012 on hosting the annual State of the Province Address (Sopa) in a tent village erected on the legislature grounds in Bhisho.

Questions are now being asked why this money was spent instead of using the legislature chamber which was revamped in 2009 at a cost of R40-million.

A report tabled by institution’s administration head Phumelele Ndamase to the public participation and petitions portfolio committee last week revealed the institution had paid out R9.6-million since 2012 for tent hiring and catering at these annual events.

The figure excludes other expenses normally incurred such as hiring a sound system, paying entertainers and pre-Sopa cocktail dinners.

It also excluded a second Sopa held this year in June when Phumulo Masualle was appointed premier following the May 7 general elections.

Prior to Masualle’s June address, former premier and now legislature speaker Noxolo Kiviet had delivered her address in February.

The report showed that R1.8-million was paid for tents in 2012 while R394 000 went to catering for about 1 500 guests.

Last year R2.39-million was paid for both tents and catering while Kiviet’s February 2014 address saw the institution paying over R2.5-million, with R582 800 of that going towards catering. “Costs implications are an indication that democracy does not come cheap. The issue of building a hall for the legislature is critical, but seems like it’s a long-term project.

Using the chamber will have an impact on the guest list,” stated Ndamase’s report.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is pushing for the next Sopa to be held in the legislature’s Raymond Mhlaba chamber, even if it means slashing the number of invited guests from 1 500 to 500.

The gallery of the chamber can accommodate up to 500 people.

DA MPL Ross Purdon yesterday described Sopa expenditure as a “clear example of how government money was wasted”.

“This is a clear example of how the ANC-led government wastes money by prioritising grandstanding political expenditure over delivery of services, said Purdon.

He added that the DA will soon embark on a mission to lobby MPLs from other opposition parties and ruling ANC MPLs, to come up with recommendations that will see future Sopa events held in the chamber.

Contacted for comment, legislature spokeswoman Bulelwa Ganyaza said the institution was “looking at the possibility of an alternative venue for the State of the Province Address and we are in no position to divulge further details on the matter”.— asandan@dispatch.co.za