BHISHO has condemned an impoverished Eastern Cape municipality’s plan to splash out R1.8-million on a two-day jazz extravaganza this weekend, saying the council should concentrate on issues of service delivery.

But the Matatiele festival last night appeared set to go ahead tomorrow, even though only 975 of the 7 000 tickets had been sold just days before the show begins.

In a report, dated November 29 and presented in Bhisho yesterday, MPLS recommended that the R1.8-million Matatiele Jazz Festival be cancelled and that other municipalities considering similar events using taxpayers’ money be discouraged from doing so.

According to local government portfolio committee chairperson Xolile Nqatha it was unacceptable for an impoverished municipality like Matatiele to spend millions on a music extravaganza while it still faced huge service delivery backlogs.

“These types of activities must be discouraged across all municipalities and where it is discovered that there is fruitless expenditure, action must be taken,” Nqatha said.

Opposition parties also slammed the plan, saying the money should be used to install services for the poor.

But local government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane supported the festival, saying it would promote job creation and a wide variety of local economic development initiatives such as hospitality industry, tourism and investment opportunities.

He said he had not been personally informed about the jazz festival and its financial implications, but conceded that he had been invited to attend a pre-festival dinner and the show itself as a distinguished guest.

“Matatiele has 468 B&B outlets and, as of November 23, they and local hotels were nearly all fully booked, spilling over to Kokstad, where most places are also fully booked,” Qoboshiyane said.

The exorbitant amount for the jazz festival, which will see artists like Thandiswa Mazwai, Ringo Madlingozi, Jaziel Brothers and Siphokazi perform in Matatiele on Saturday, accounts for 2% of the municipality’s R91.7-million budget for the current financial year.

The festival, dubbed Sweet Matat by the Dam, will be held at the Matatiele local municipality’s Pleasure Dam.

A pre-party bash tomorrow was booked at the Northend Stadium featuring popular artists Big Nuz, DJ Cleo and L’vovo Derango.

The jazz festival and pre-party bash will be preceded by a gala dinner on Friday where the municipality is expected to outline its “bigger plan” to improve tourism and promote local economic development.

Municipal spokeswoman Nthabeleng Seshea said the opportunity would also be used to lobby for potential investors.

A concept document seen by the Daily Dispatch showed that R1.6m was budgeted while R200 000 more would be funded by “strategic partners”.

The budget breakdown shows the council has approved R311 000 to pay the artists; R150 000 for infrastructure such as marquees and security fencing; R160 000 to market the event; R55 000 for security; R31 000 towards disaster management; R82 000 for accommodation; R69 000 for transport; R160 000 for a sound system, stage and lighting; R82 000 for catering; and another R269 420 for administration and travel expenses.

The municipality has also spent an extra R12 000 on a R10-million insurance policy covering the event for if something goes wrong.

According to the concept document, the two-day event is expected to attract more than 10 000 people, while it will derive positive spin-offs for local communities and small businesses.

During a legislature debate on the issue yesterday, ANC MPL Mkhangeli Matomela urged municipalities to partner with the private sector when hosting events of such a nature, saying it was a big burden if they shouldered the expenditure themselves.

Nqatha did not believe there was value for money in hosting the festival.

“This is a problem for an impoverished municipality such as this one to set aside R1.6-million with R200 000 coming from the private sector. We would have appreciated and supported the reverse,” Nqatha said.

The DA’S Dacre Haddon said the magnitude of the event was out of balance with the real needs of the local communities.

The UDM’S Jackson Bici advised the local government department to keep a closer eye on spending patterns of small municipalities, saying they would head for disaster if unmonitored.

African Independent Congress’s Mandla Galo, who is a community activist in Matatiele, said he was tired of commenting about the festival.

“I will not talk more on the issue but will just watch this space,” he said.

The municipality had envisaged selling in excess of 7 000 tickets for the event but, according to Qoboshiyane, only 975 tickets at a cost of R126 950 had been sold with only three days to go before the actual festival.

“The trend with all music festivals is that most tickets are sold towards the last day before the festival, therefore the sale of 975 tickets shows that the prospects are good,” Qoboshiyane said.

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