Budget concerns over park

2013-08-27 00:00

DURBAN’S opposition parties have asked for a budget review of the Mkhumbane Freedom Park amid concerns the project will exceed the R300 million set aside for it.

The park, situated near Albert Luthuli Hospital in Cato Manor, will honour King Goodwill Zwelithini’s mother Thomozile Ndwandwe-Zulu.

The queen mother’s remains were exhumed from an unmarked grave in Chesterville in 2011 and reburied in the park in the same year.

So far, about R5 million has been used for the creation of the crypt for the queen mother and the first phase of the project, but the IFP, MF and DA are concerned that the budget will be exceeded and that construction will go on well beyond 2015.

Thembinkosi Ngcobo, head of parks, recreation and culture, said the R5 million used for the establishment of the park’s first phase included the construction of the parking area, a flower garden, the paving of the road and erection of lights.

The park is expected to be opened to the public next month.

Ngcobo said about R60 million will be used for the second phase and R250 million for the completion of the project in the next four years. “The burial of the queen in the park was significant for the city to preserve the history and culture of the Zulu nation,” said Ngcobo.

He said when the queen’s remains were discovered, the creation of the cultural museum and heritage centre was already in progress. “It was befitting for the queen to be buried there. The park should be accessible to the public in September,” he said.

The establishment of the museum and heritage centre in Cato Manor was favoured by all parties in the city but there are now concerns that delays could leave the city with a huge burden.

Minority Front councillor Patrick Pillay said the project was important for the people of eThekwini. “The queen mother is very important to this province. Our concern is that we have to finish soon to avoid costs that can be incurred if the project is not finished soon.”

Zwakele Mncwango, the DA’s caucus leader in the municipality, said in principle they supported the preservation of heritage and history of the Zulu nation, but the budget review was necessary.

He said there was a need to ensure that taxpayers’ money was accounted for. “The budget review is imperative because the money set aside might be too much or less than what is needed,” he said.

Mncwango said that the acknowledgement of the Zulu nation’s and other ethnic groups’ roles in the province was vital for better social cohesion.

IFP caucus chairperson in the council Mdu Nkosi said it was important to guard against any misuse of taxpayer money. “I would not want to see people trying to enrich themselves by using the queen’s name. Any delays or requests for additional money that are not legitimate would cause harm to the reputation of the queen.”

Ngcobo reacted to opposition party concerns by saying that all the financial eventualities had been taken into consideration when setting a R300 million budget. “The city is known for efficiency when it comes to the delivery of projects. We have a 98% rate of delivering our projects on time,” he said.

Ndwandwe-Zulu’ story is a remarkable one. The queen died in 1958 and was buried as a commoner.

The queen had left the Zulu royal family to stay with relatives in uMkhumbane, allegedly after she became estranged from King Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon.

Ngcobo said only the queen would be buried in the park, as it was reserved for the preservation of culture, history and the role of women in fighting apartheid.

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