Trust’s ‘expensive party’ explained

2012-11-21 00:00

INGONYAMA Trust chair Judge Jerome Ngwenya and CEO Ngqabutho Bhebhe were left wondering how they were left out of their own organisation’s Christmas party, which purportedly cost R2 700 a head, until they realised it was a different party altogether.

This after an outraged DA shadow minister for rural development and land reform, Athol Trollip, sent out a statement accusing the Ingonyama Trust executives of partying while the poor go hungry. Trollip described this as “an obscene display of high living while the majority of people on Ingonyama Trust land live in poverty”. He said he would write to the chairperson of the portfolio committee on land reform, Stone Sizani, to call those responsible to Parliament to account for this reckless expenditure.

After Trollips statement, Ngwenya confessed to being totally in the dark, while Bhebhe said he suddenly got phone calls accusing him of throwing KZN’s most expensive Christmas party for his 37 employees.

Asked where he heard about the party, Trollip referred to a weekend media report. It turns out the report was based on a parliamentary question in which Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti was asked by M.M. Swathe of the DA whether his ministry, his department and any entity reporting to him planned to host end-of-year parties.

The minister responded that the Ingonyama Trust Board was planning a party for 37 people and the cost was R100 000. The minister said the money had been budgeted for and that the expenses would be incurred under “workshops and roadshows”.

On hearing about the parliamentary question, Bhebhe immediately realised what had happened.

“Our response to the parliamentary question that we submitted to the minister was prepared with the anticipation of the official opening of our new head offices before the end of the year. The Ingonyama Trust’s new offices in Trelawney Road, Pietermaritzburg, were opened just over a week ago and Bhebhe said the budget was not for the staff, who had to work at the event, but for a large number of guests.

Just to make certain there was no misunderstanding that the staff of the Ingonyama Trust were dining on caviar at some exclusive rendezvous, Bhebhe stressed that no such party had ever, or would be taking place.

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