/ 25 October 2023

KZN drops controversial R28m Sama awards plan

Kzn Anc Conference New Pec 23 July 2022.1 21
Former ANC KZN chairman, Sihle Zikalala, with Siboniso Duma. Photo: Rajesh Jantilal

The KwaZulu-Natal government has bowed to public opinion and abandoned its controversial R28 million plan to host the South African Music Awards (Sama) ceremony in Durban next month.

ANC provincial chairperson and economic development, tourism and environmental affairs MEC Siboniso Duma announced on Wednesday that his department had cancelled the event, set to be broadcast by the SABC live from Durban on 17 and 18 November.

The plan to hold the awards ceremony using state funds moved from other departments by Duma’s ministry created a furore — and is understood to have resulted in President Cyril Ramphosa quietly advising him to drop the plan.

It had raised the ire of the local music industry and artists, who held protests earlier this week over the plan to hold the Samas without involving them in the two days of high-profile activities.

The plan became public after a treasury memorandum questioning the spending, which included R3 million for goody bags, an R11 million broadcast fee and R6.5 million for a gala dinner, was leaked to the media.

While the provincial government has defended the event, claiming it would generate R350 million for the local economy, Duma told a media briefing in Durban that the plan, which had the backing of the provincial cabinet, was off.

“Having consulted widely with the executive council and other stakeholders, I have advised the department to stop the hosting of the South African Music Awards this year,” Duma said.

The department management was meeting with the recording industry to inform them of the decision, which was also being communicated to the provincial cabinet, as the hosting of the Samas was “a collective decision”.

He said the R28 million price tag was “part of a campaign of disinformation” aimed at “sowing confusion” and that the “actual amount of money that has been confirmed by treasury and [the department of economic development, tourism and environmental affairs] is around R20 million before VAT”.

Duma said that this figure was based on “our last consultation” and that the procurement process followed by the department to secure treasury approval to move funds from other departments was “above board, transparent and free of any irregularities”.

He claimed that official documents made public in the process of ensuring transparency had been “weaponised against the department to scandalise this national event with a global following”. 

The department had invested resources in the Samas as it wanted to hold successful national and international events, as it had done in the past, to boost the provincial economy.

“Hosting the South African Music Awards followed a successful bid against other provinces. We remain committed to ensuring the recovery of the culture and creative Industry. This sector is the catalyst for the stimulation of many other sectors of our economy, such as tourism and hospitality,” he said.

Despite the earlier protests by local artists over their exclusion from the glitzy event, Duma said the Samas would have benefitted them.

“Our hearts are with artists whose lives were destroyed by the outbreak of Covid-19. The South African Music Awards was their hope and their source of income ahead of the festive season,” he said.

Last week, ActionSA KwaZulu-Natal leader Zwakhele Mncwango wrote to Ramphosa asking him to intervene over the expenditure on the event, to which the eThekwini municipality had committed a further R25 million in funding.