Mahikeng Cultural event could be put on ice

American singer Anthony Hamilton entertains people during the Mahika Mahikeng Cultural Music Festival at Mmabatho Stadium on a previous occasion. / Tiro Ramatlhatse
American singer Anthony Hamilton entertains people during the Mahika Mahikeng Cultural Music Festival at Mmabatho Stadium on a previous occasion. / Tiro Ramatlhatse

The Mahika Mahikeng Cultural Music Festival that takes place every December in Mahikeng, North West, is likely not to be staged this year due to controversy around tender process in the province.

The popular event that has been happening for years is normally staged in the second week of December over four days.

But this year, the service provider who organises the event was yet to be confirmed. Anonymous sources told Sowetan that the delay in announcing a R50m tender for the festival was caused by the fact that arts & culture MEC Virginia Tlhapi allegedly had "favourites".

Sources alleged that Tlhapi preferred a Rustenburg-based construction company which is said to be owned by a member of the ANC Youth League, while other stakeholders and executives wanted the same promoter who staged the festival last year.

Sources further revealed that certain stakeholders, who are known to Sowetan, had vowed to stop the festival if the previous organiser was not given another chance to organise the event. According to a statement released by the department on September 12, the tender process proceedings were interrupted by a group of unknown people, who intimidated people and forcefully took away some of the tender documents that had been submitted.

The statement further said the group demanded that the tender be awarded to a person or a company based in Mahikeng.

"This is against the public procurement prescripts, which enjoin government to follow a competitive bidding process as enshrined in section 217 of the constitution of the country," read the statement.

"The department explained that it was prepared to sit down and talk to all parties that may have serious concerns about the procurement for the Mahika Mahikeng Cultural Festival as long as it within the confines of the law."

Director of marketing and communication, Shuping Sebolecwe, who was sent a series of questions, could not indicate whether the festival will happen or not.

"We want to categorically state that the allegations against the MEC and the department are not true; they are intentionally false, frivolous, misleading and malicious.

"The MEC, as the political head of the department, does not get involved in awarding of tenders and administrative issues. The normal supply chain processes have not been finalised and no company has been awarded a tender to host the festival. As soon as all the processes have been concluded the public and the media will be informed through all media platforms."

Thapelo Mokhutshoane, chairperson of Creative Industry Task Team, said they were worried the service provider has not been appointed with a month to go. "...we are one month away from the event. We are asking ourselves if they will deliver a proper festival," Mokhutshoane said.

"We have met and complained and voiced our displeasure about how the festival failed to benefit all artists across the spectrum from arts, theatre and music."

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