PMB to splurge on top events

2014-04-03 00:00


That’s the amount the city has invested to make Pietermaritzburg the horse racing destination of choice in the country and to fund an annual jazz concert over the next three years.

Altogether R11 million was approved at yesterday’s Executive Committee (Exco) meeting, to form a three-year partnership with the Tsogo Sun Golden Horse Sprint Race Day and the Msunduzi Jazz Festival.

This after Tsogo Sun and Starlight Promotions respectively made representations to partner with the municipality to brand these two events to boost tourism and place the city on the world map.

Tsogo Sun wants R4 million this year for the event hosted on May 24, R2 million for next year and R2 million in 2016, to ensure proper branding because Pietermaritzburg was the only city to host such an “international event” in the country.

Starlight Promotions want R1 million a year for three years, which will increase in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Msunduzi Jazz Festival in August. Their argument was that the city is the only member of the South African Cities Network that does not have a signature jazz festival as part of economic development, as Cape Town, Mangaung, eThekwini and Johannesburg do.

DA Exco member Mergan Chetty argued that the city had challenges with service delivery and that the R11 million could be better spent than on the two events. “Why can’t they find anchor tenants for these events, where the city benefits without having to pay a cent?” he asked. Chetty said the Durban July is funded by Vodacom and the Cape Town Met by J&B.

Chetty said the council should build houses for the poor instead of spending so much on festivals. He said the argument that tourism was overtaking gold in the country’s economy was not true, because it has been proved that tourism was hurt by potholes in the province’s road. “We need to develop infrastructure and improve service delivery if we want to have such events in the city,” said Chetty.

He said financial sense dictated that the events should be funded by other sponsors. “We know that the race is a sport for the rich, who will come in their private jets and leave the city without even sleeping in the five-star hotels that you are talking about,” said Chetty.

However, ANC councillors would not hear argument that the spin-offs will not benefit the poor.

“When we travel to Asia, people don’t know where Pietermaritzburg is, so such events will play a role in ensuring that we place our city on the map,” said ANC Exco member Thulani Xulu.

Another ANC Exco member, Jabu Ngubo, said, “Even Jesus said there will always be poor people on Earth, so if we think we will first have to alleviate poverty before we can bring these events to our city, then we will never be able to.”

Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said the city had a responsibility to fund these events, which is a trend in other cities. “Once the branding has been established and people can see it is worth investing in, then businesses will take an interest in taking over the funding,” he said.

Nkosi said eThekwini was using a lot of resources to cater for the Durban July, and its spin-offs helped to boost the local economy, which was their aim.

Chief finance officer Nelly Ngcobo said some funds were available, but they needed to budget for these events in the next financial year. She said they will fund this year’s Golden Horse Sprint Race, which takes place on May 24, based on this availability of funds.

Mayor Chris Ndlela said captains of the industry will see a need to develop accommodation in the city once they had helped create a need by supporting such initiatives.

DA caucus leader Bill Lambert recused himself from the discussion, as he has interests in horse racing.

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