World Cup splurge

2010-07-04 11:38

A top North West sports department official has been suspended for refusing to splurge on World Cup tickets.

Sam Mokaila, the acting head of the provincial sports department, was suspended on June 10 for allegedly refusing to buy an additional 150 tickets – at a cost of R300 000 – for sports, arts and culture MEC Grace Bothman.

At the time the North West sports department had already spent R3.8 million on 5 000 tickets and two suites at Rustenburg’s Royal Bafokeng ­Stadium.

Mokaila’s colleagues say he was suspended after a June 9 meeting at which he turned down the MEC’s request.

“The MEC wanted Mokaila to buy 100 more tickets for the opening ceremony (in Johannesburg) and 50 for the England-USA game (in Rustenburg). When he refused because there was no written instruction, the MEC suspended him,” a department official said.

Mokaila’s suspension was later reversed by North West’s Premier Maureen Modiselle on the grounds that Bothman had no power either to suspend or ­appoint a head of department.

Mokaila refused to be drawn on his suspension. He defended the department’s purchase of tickets.

“It was not wasteful. We ­received dedicated funds for the World Cup,” he said.

He said recipients of the tickets were “needy” people on the database of the social development department and not departmental officials or senior politicians.

But the official who claimed Mokaila’s suspension was related to his refusal to buy the extra tickets said government departments were under pressure to give tickets to high-profile politicians, including cabinet ministers.

“These are the people who jump onto the bandwagon when we are publicly criticised for buying ­tickets,” the official said.

As more details on how government nationally spent on the event become public, it appears other provinces have also spent millions on tickets despite ­Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s instruction not to waste taxpayers’ money.

The Free State government and Mangaung municipality have so far spent almost R22 million on 65 900 tickets, while the Gauteng government said it had spent over R4 million on 4 613 tickets.

Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said about 3 000 tickets were given to members of “disadvantaged communities, ­orphanages and schools”.

The rest went to what he called government’s “strategic stakeholders”, including members of the provincial legislature, NGOs, community-based organisations.

“Only MECs who were able to host stakeholders were given tickets for that purpose,” Masebe said.

Mangaung’s mayor, Playfair Morule, and 10 members of his mayoral committee were allegedly each given two hospitality tickets and 10 more category 4 (cheaper) tickets for games played at the Free State stadium.

“Our political leadership is afraid to tell that we have spent R15 million on tickets. Councillors and senior managers got tickets and winter jackets,” an official in the Mangaung municipality’s 2010 unit said.

Mangaung spokesperson Qondile Khedama would neither deny nor confirm that councillors and senior managers had received tickets and jackets.

“It is true that a reasonable quantity of tickets were bought and the distribution was made by the mayor in Thaba’Nchu and Botshabelo. Other targeted areas were taxi ranks and rural areas within Mangaung,” he said.

The Western Cape and Limpopo governments said they had not bought any tickets.

Limpopo provincial government spokesperson Phuthi Mosomane said they received 500 tickets from private companies and donated most to orphanages.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said: “As far as I am aware, the Western Cape provincial government bought no tickets.”

She said she had bought her own quarter and semifinal tickets.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize’s spokesperson, ­Ndabezinhle Sibiya, said a report would be presented to the provincial legislature detailing what the government had spent. 

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