Furore over concert

2013-11-18 00:00

OPPOSITION parties in the Msunduzi Council have opposed the granting of a R90 000 donation to a private music company — Big Fish — to stage a gospel concert in Pietermaritzburg.

They lost to the majority ANC members in the Executive Committee (Exco) last week who decided that gospel concerts, enjoyed by many city residents, deserved support.

DA councillor Mergan Chetty said Big Fish was a profit-making venture that was spending over R400 000 alone to hire artists. They were also selling tickets via Computicket and should not be needing money from the municipality. Chetty said residents, who were recently landed with a hefty electricity tariff increase, would be angered at how their money was being spent. “Concerts are not our core business,” he added.

National Freedom Front (NFP) councillor Ntokozo Bhengu said Big Fish had a budget of over R850 000 and they would not suffer without Msunduzi’s R90 000 contribution. Bhengu said he would rather see the money go to feed the hungry in the city.

Councillor Eunice Majola (ANC) said not so long ago the DA was asking for support for a Diwali festival. She said a gospel concert fell within the same category. Chetty responded that the Diwali function was organised by the community and was free. “This company is not from Pietermaritzburg and is holding events throughout the country.”

The economic spin-off of the concert in terms of filling up hotel rooms and B&Bs was spelled out by councillor Inderjith Manilal (ANC).

He said R90 000 was not a huge investment and would bring economic benefits to the city. He said the council supported such events as the Comrades Marathon, international cycling races and the Dusi Canoe Marathon.

“A gospel concert reaches out to masses of people in the city and this was why council needed to support such an event,” he said.

The DA’s Bill Lambert piped up saying, “with enormous respect, we can hardly compare this sudden application for funds with Comrades”.

Deputy municipal manager Dr Ray Ngcobo said supporting the concert was all about leverage. The concert was going to preach the message of road safety and HIV/Aids.

The municipality has a responsibility to carry out such campaigns and it was doing so by supporting the concert, Ngcobo said.

Contacted by The Witness, Big Fish’s Sipho Makhabane said the event was not about his company and that it was a social responsibility event raising awareness about social ills through music. There were a number of partners in the initiative, including churches.

• Big Fish is a music company owed by Sipho Makhabane who has promoted several gospel artists.

• The Gospel Music Festival will take place in the Woodburn Stadium on November 30.

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