Ngema blames Sarafina

2003-05-29 09:23

Pietermaritzburg - Controversial playwright and musician Mbongeni Ngema on Wednesday told an insolvency inquiry that the primary cause of his sequestration was the R14.2 million contract awarded to him to produce Sarafina II.

Ngema, who is currently employed at the African Production Trading Trust, owes his creditors almost R1.5 million. His insolvent estate was placed under final sequestration on April 8, 1999.

Ngema said the Health Department stopped payment of R6 million owed to him for the production of Sarafina II, a play commissioned to promote Aids awareness.

In July 1995 his company, Committed Artists, was invited to tender for a nationwide theatrical Aids awareness campaign.

He won the contract and the money for the play was allocated. At the time, however, health care was in crisis and the Health Department and then-minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma were criticised for providing too much money for the play.

Payment controversy

On August 10, 1995 an agreement was signed between Ngema and the department for the production for R14.2 million. R3 million was to be paid when the contract was signed, R6 million by the end of December and R5.2 million at the end of June in 1996.

The initial payment of R3 million was paid two days before the contract was officially signed. The second payment was made in November after several negotiations because the first payment was insufficient. The play opened in Durban on December 1, 1995 and further payments were made to Ngema in March and April 1996.

"I was given nothing in writing that the department would terminate the agreement."

Ngema said when he asked the Health director-general, Dr Olive Shisana, why the production was terminated she cited the controversy.

Ngema said he spent the money he did get on a number of things including seating, lighting and audio equipment, and salaries. The weekly cost of running the production was R200 000.

An amount of R1.8 million was recovered by the department when musical equipment, a VW Microbus, a Mercedes Benz bus, a Mercedes Benz truck and trailer, and two flatbed trailers were recovered from Ngema.

Accounting for a payment of R50 000 to a P. Ngema, Ngema said he loaned the money to a friend who did not repay him. He himself took R26 000 in November 1995 as his salary, which varied depending on the amount of work he did.

In 1997 an investigation was instituted after Public Protector Selby Baqwa found proper tender procedures were not followed when Ngema's company was awarded the contract.

The inquiry has been adjourned until June 26.