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ANC funders left out in the cold at gala dinner

Verashni Pillay and Matuma Letsoalo

The ANC’s fundraising dinner on Friday was beset by organisational problems with service providers paid late and VIP guests treated shoddily.

The ANC has been left scrambling after last minute organisational woes around its gala dinner left fundraisers out in the cold. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The ANC’s gala dinner on Friday night in Nelspruit was marred by poor organisation, the Mail & Guardian has learned, with service providers receiving payments late and business people paying tens of thousands of rands for seats only to be locked out of the venue.

Four sources told the M&G that service providers Gearhouse South Africa – who provided sound, lighting and other services to the ANC at the gala dinner – were only paid on the morning of the event on Friday.

A worker for the company, preferring to remain anonymous, said the company had been waiting for the deposit as confirmation for their services since the beginning of the week.

As a result, staff deployment was delayed, two additional sources familiar with the work, said. This meant additional staff had to be used at the last minute to get the job done in time at an additional cost to the ANC.

This led to delays that saw senior official ANC leaders, government ministers, VIP guests and funders waiting outside the venue for over two hours, according to a senior source within the party.

The programme, meant to start at 6:30pm, only kicked off after 9pm.

'No delay'
Gearhouse South Africa, who have provided similar services to the ANC before, insisted “there was absolutely no delay caused by any financial constraints”.

The company would not comment further, saying what happened in the course of their transactions with the ANC was “of no concern to yourself”.

Speaking at the event, ANC spokesperson Keith Khosa said he could not comment on allegations made by anonymous sources but said all service providers had been paid by the time of the event – a good move for the party, he said, as they usually paid service providers after an event.

“The cause of the delays was electricity going out at the accreditation centre,” he told the M&G. “It went out for hours and affected the collation of all the information that was needed for people who had sponsored tables to enter.”

The party apologised for the delay in proceedings at the event with programme director Jeff Radebe blaming a lightning storm earlier that day for affecting electricity ahead of the event. “That delayed the putting in of all the technical equipment and the sound system here.”

Locked out
Business people, many of whom are long-time financial supporters of the ANC and had shelled out R25 000 per chair for the dinner, were made to wait up to five hours at the accreditation centre on Friday when systems went down.

But it seems the lightning storm wasn’t the only problem, with one fed-up business person saying they had only been told at 2pm and had to drop work and rush to the centre only to wait for over four hours for accreditation.

A second business person waited three hours.

It was these delays in accreditation that made many party funders late for the event. Several arrived while President Jacob Zuma was speaking but were kept outside by security personnel as no one was allowed to enter the hall while the president spoke, missing the main event of the night.

A third business person said they had received mixed signals and driven to the venue after being told to do so only to be turned away because no private cars were allowed and sent to a park-and-ride facility.

Under pressure
A worried-looking Zweli Mkhize, who, as ANC treasurer-general, was responsible for making payments for the event, was spotted arriving late at the venue looking harried.

Mkhize was under pressure to perform. The ANC needs significant funding as its election campaign kicks off in earnest after the January 8th statement. He took over from previous treasurer general Mathews Phosa, who usually organised these dinners, at the ANC’s Mangaung conference in December 2012. Phosa was ousted from the position after he threw his lot in with the unsuccessful faction that sought to remove Jacob Zuma as president.

The ANC’s fundraising dinner this year took place at the Church on the Hill in Nelspruit where the party had been meeting with its national executive committee ahead of the unveiling of their election manifesto at the dinner on Friday, the January 8th anniversary celebrations and statement at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday.

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