MEC Hlophe spends R7 million on a three-hour celebratory event while Gauteng athletes and artist’s struggle

Many Gauteng artists and athletes have lost their livelihoods and have been forced into unemployment because of the Covid-19 lockdown, yet the Gauteng MEC for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation (SACR), Mbali Hlophe spent R7 million on a three-hour Gauteng Sports Awards event.

The DA has been reliably informed that the department has spent R7 million on the 2021 Gauteng Sports Awards despite the DA cautioning the department on excessive spending on this annual event. There was nothing spectacular about this event as guests were served a three-course meal with a soft drink or juice and only three renowned artists performed at the event.

The money spent on the Gauteng Sports Awards could have been used to provide the Covid-19 relief grant to 1166 athletes and artists at a rate of R6000 each.

For far too long, the DA has been calling on the department to reprioritize its budget to ensure that the money is allocated to render services to our people instead of wasting money on celebratory events.

In the 2019/2020 financial year, the department spent R9,494,000,00 on the Gauteng Sports Awards and, since the 2012/2013 financial year to the 2020/2021 financial year, it has spent over R61 million on this annual event. This ridiculous excessive spending by the department is unacceptable because we still have libraries across the province that do not have access to reliable internet. This money could have been used for service delivery and not for a one-day event.

While the DA supports the honouring of our athletes as it motivates them and inspires our youth to take part in sports, we do not agree with excessive spending on this annual event considering the suffering of residents during this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This event can be held at any one of the many government venues or community stadiums available instead of paying for expensive venues and wasting money on food and beverages. The department can also hire local artists to perform to showcase their talents instead of hiring renowned artists.

The DA will not hesitate to hold MEC Hlophe to account for the department funds to be allocated according to priorities and for the benefit of all our residents, not a few individuals who have access to the department tenders. We also demand a breakdown of how R7 million was spent on this event considering that it was an in-door event and there is a limitation in terms of the number of people who can attend such events due to Covid-19 regulations.