Essence Music Festival a flop for eThekwini - DA

2016-11-14 21:55

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Durban – The DA wants answers from eThekwini city manager, Sbu Sithole, on how money was spent on the inaugural Essence Music Festival.

The municipality reportedly spent R46 million hosting the likes of British singer Estelle, US comedian Steve Harvey, and R&B singer Neyo. Held between November 8 and 13, the festival was aimed at promoting business, arts, culture, women empowerment, fashion, health, and lifestyle.

It originated in New Orleans and was adapted for an African audience. A star-studded concert was held at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday and Sunday night.

DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango said when the concept was initially presented to the municipality’s executive committee, it sounded like a brilliant idea.

“But as time went by, it became clear that certain individuals were using Essence to accumulate wealth for themselves. The festival was a dismal failure and I have written to the city manager for responses after receiving information that those international artists were paid for by South African Airways to come to South Africa. But the city was claiming that it paid for the flights.

“This is still an allegation. I have written a list of questions to the city manager and I still have not received the answers.”

Mncwango said public money was allegedly used to buy alcohol at several events.

“There was a gospel concert on Sunday and I am told that lots of alcohol was consumed. You would think that because it was a gospel event, there would not be any alcohol. That is why we believe that there should be a thorough investigation into the festival.”

Mncwango questioned how, if hip hop artist Casper Nyovest could fill The Dome in Johannesburg alone, Durban could fail to fill the Moses Mabhida Stadium after spending millions on advertising.

Mncwango said two days before the start of the festival, about 400 tickets were sold.

“That is embarrassing for the city. How do you explain to the ratepayers that there was no return on investment?”

He wanted to know how the people of Umlazi and KwaMashu had benefitted from the event. He claimed only those connected to the ANC derived any benefit from it.

‘Come up with your own’

Instead of copying an international festival, eThekwini could have come up with its own festival.

“Look at the Free State’s Makufe, they manage to bring in the crowds, they are doing it well. There are people in South Africa who can organise festivals of this magnitude.”

IFP eThekwini councillor Mdu Nkosi said he supported the festival. It had been budgeted for and it was money well spent.

“I attended conferences and I think people gained a lot of knowledge. I thought that it was a success because it was a first time in South Africa.

“I think we will increase in the numbers. Young people got employed and our hotels were busy. It was money well spent.”

eThekwini municipality spokesperson Tozi  Mthethwa said because the festival was concluded only on Sunday, they did not yet have a full report from everyone involved.

"A report detailing how much money was spent to host the event and benefits to the city is being compiled. The full report will then be presented to the executive committee once it has been finalised," he said.

Read more on:    durban  |  music festival

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