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Lack of funds stymies Ladysmith Black Mambazo Music Academy dream

The long-awaited Ladysmith Black Mambazo Music Academy looks set to be delayed further by lack of funds despite receiving a R1-million cash injection from the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government.

The multimillion-rand academy in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands town of Ladysmith was first mooted by the world renowned music group's now retired founder and leader Joseph Shabalala.

In December, the KwaZulu-Natal department of economic development, tourism and environmental affairs announced it would give the Alfred Duma Local Municipality R1-million to be paid in two tranches of R900000 and R100000.

A 2007 business plan prepared by Tshwane-based specialist consulting firm Urban-Econ Development Economists estimated it would cost R13.6-million then to build the academy over three years.

The academy was expected to be built on the outskirts of Ladysmith on an undeveloped plot of land located close to major roads.

The department, which promised the project's lifespan would be five years, said the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Music Academy would include a recording studio, museum, training centre, threatre, amphitheatre and crafts centre as Shabalala envisaged.

A permanent project steering committee that was to meet twice a month to monitor progress was to be set up, the department had promised.

It also set conditions on its support for the academy, including that its funding would solely be used to establish the academy and that a funding agreement would have to be concluded by it and the Alfred Duma Local Municipality.

But the municipality's BJ Xaba said the academy has been delayed for technical and financial reasons.

Xaba said the municipality was pleased with the different approach being taken towards the realisation of the academy.

The municipality's executive director Danny Mkhize said the availability of funds was the reason for the delays.

Mayor Vincent Madlala said it was the dream of the people of KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa to see the realisation of Shabalala's dream.

While the group made isicathamiya famous across the world, it will not dictate that the academy should limit itself to this style of music but rather embrace the full spectrum of local indigenous music, according to the plan.

In its 57 years of existence, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has won four Grammy Awards and was nominated 15 times.

The group has also previously been nominated for an Emmy Award and at the Oscars.

One of Shabalala's sons and group member, Msizi, did not respond to requests for comment.

The department's spokesman Bheko Madlala referred inquiries to another official Harry Mchunu who was not available for comment.