Official axed over Madiba vigil: Daily Dispatch

Cost of ‘Pre-tears’ party not approved

EASTERN Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) has fired at least one official and issued a final written warning to another after they were found liable for unauthorised spending of R500 000 on a “pre-tears party” held on the eve of Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013.

A third implicated official resigned while investigations were still ongoing, and avoided being disciplined for expenditure which has been declared “wasteful”.

The three officials took the fall after it was discovered they had not obtained the agency board’s approval to spend this amount.

This was revealed by economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC Sakhumzi Somyo in a parliamentary response submitted to Bhisho legislature recently.

Somyo’s response came after DA MPL Ross Purdon inquired about steps taken to deal with the matter.

Somyo confirmed the R500 000 expenditure had not been planned.

“The night vigil was not part of plans submitted to the board for approval and was therefore not budgeted for.

“Therefore, the entire R500 000 was considered wasteful expenditure,” wrote Somyo, who could not be reached for further comment yesterday.

Attempts to officially determine the identity of the three officials was unsuccessful. However, the Daily Dispatch understands that former executive director Eddie Marafane and communications head Veliswa Mhlapo were two of them.

The Daily Dispatch had earlier this year reported that the “pre-tears party” was held in a marquee a stone’s throw from Mandela’s farm in Qunu on December 14, 2013.

At the time, the Dispatch was told the agency had spent a total of R2.5-million on the chaotic event.

The agency later denied this, claiming it had spent R1.3-million paying top artists including multi-award winning East Londonborn singer Bulelwa “Zahara” Mkutukane and Mzwakhe Mbuli, and to hire a stage and sound system.

Zahara and Mbuli were meant to headline the event and were each paid about R75 000 to perform.

The event was a flop as no performances took place because the artists either did not arrive or perform. The agency also failed to attract the numbers it had catered for, leading to most of the food going to waste.

At the time ECPTA’s chief executive Vuyani Dayimane said R500 000 of the R1.3million was classified as fruitless as the artists had not performed.

The looting of millions of rands meant for Mandela’s funeral has embarrassed the Eastern Cape provincial government.

Following a series of exposés in the Dispatch, top politicians, provincial government entities and top government executives are now subject to an investigation by public protector Thuli Madonsela.

A group of senior politicians and council officials in Buffalo City Metro, as well as businesspeople with strong political connections, appeared in court on allegations of fraud relating to nearly R10-million the council had set aside for Mandela’s funeral. This after a Dispatch investigation found the money had ended up being divided among politicians and businesspeople.

Dayimane yesterday refused to comment and instead referred queries to Somyo’s office.

Purdon yesterday said his party welcomed the action against the officials.

“Strong action must be taken against any state official for wasteful expenditure,” Purdon said.

He added that he was concerned steps were not taken against the third official, and nothing was done to recover “the wasted money”. —

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