Why R12m on a jamboree when pupils learn under trees?

The decision by the Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture to splurge R12million of taxpayers' money on the annual week-long Mapungubwe Arts Festival is a cause for concern.

The decision by the Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture to splurge R12million of taxpayers' money on the annual week-long Mapungubwe Arts Festival is a cause for concern.

The officials involved have justified it by saying they have signed contracts with international artists such as Papa Wemba and Kirk Franklin to perform at the festival.

The provincial treasury has allocated R2,9million for the event.

To augment the funds, officials decided to solicit money allocated to various directorates within the department. Those directorates had apparently not used those funds.

According to official documents dated November 14, R2,5million was taken from sports development, R500000 from the office of the head of department, another R500000 from the office of the MEC, R500000 from the chief financial officer's office and R500000 from the libraries' section.

The whole saga raises several questions about the way in which public servants handle taxpayers' money.

Firstly, why were the funds allocated to the directorates not spent?

The assumption is that those funds are allocated on the basis of the needs of the directorates.

It can then be reasonably assumed that failing to spend the funds means that the identified needs have not been addressed.

On the other hand, there is the issue of priorities. Limpopo, as one of the poorest provinces, continues to face the challenges of adequately addressing the basic needs of its people.

In a province where there are still children learning under trees, with no libraries, can the Limpopo government really afford to splurge R12million on entertainment and justify it?

In fact, Sowetan has established that with R12million the government could build 17450 low-cost houses.

With the same amount, 24 classroom blocks, costing about R500000 each, could be built. Alternatively, it could build six libraries costing R2million each. Or, four sports complexes each costing R3million.Mapungubwe is but one of the cultural events that provinces and local government authorities throughout the country have funded.The raison d'etre for these jamborees has been that they promote tourism in the areas where they are staged. They are also, apparently, aimed at promoting arts and culture in those areas. One cannot deny that, neither can one deny the role that arts and culture play in people's overall development. This is especially so in the context of a country like South Africa, where the cultures of the majority have in the past been marginalised. The question, however, is about the return on investment that the authorities get from these festivals. More so if contrasted with the return on investment they could get when addressing priorities like housing, health or even the building of recreation facilities in poor communities. Taking all these into consideration, splurging R12million on a festival cannot be justified.The Limpopo portfolio committee on sport, arts and culture must be commended for the stance it has taken against spending so much of taxpayers' money on the festival. 24 classroom blocks, costing about R500000 each, could be built. Alternatively, it could build six libraries costing R2million each. Or, four sports complexes each costing R3million.

Mapungubwe is but one of the cultural events that provinces and local government authorities throughout the country have funded.

The raison d'etre for these jamborees has been that they promote tourism in the areas where they are staged. They are also, apparently, aimed at promoting arts and culture in those areas.

One cannot deny that, neither can one deny the role that arts and culture play in people's overall development.

This is especially so in the context of a country like South Africa, where the cultures of the majority have in the past been marginalised.

The question, however, is about the return on investment that the authorities get from these festivals. More so if contrasted with the return on investment they could get when addressing priorities like housing, health or even the building of recreation facilities in poor communities.

Taking all these into consideration, splurging R12million on a festival cannot be justified.

The Limpopo portfolio committee on sport, arts and culture must be commended for the stance it has taken against spending so much of taxpayers' money on the festival.

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