'ANC is stealing our money to buy votes for next year'

Tempers flared in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, after the unveiling of a 6m-high statue of Nelson Mandela on Friday. The DA and EFF questioned money used for the unveiling.
Tempers flared in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, after the unveiling of a 6m-high statue of Nelson Mandela on Friday. The DA and EFF questioned money used for the unveiling.
Image: Mandla Khoza

A 6m-high statue of Nelson Mandela has divided people in Mpumalanga.

Premier Refilwe Mtsweni unveiled the R8.3m statue on Friday. It was built by the department of sports, arts and culture at the government complex in Mbombela.

Soon after the unveiling, emotions ran high as opposition parties and the public questioned the costs amid rising poverty in the province.

The DA and the EFF said Mandela would not have loved to be seen by hungry and unemployed people.

"Children want libraries, books and other services like sports facilities but our arts and culture department opts to build a statue that is costly.

"We can't have Mandela statues everywhere when our people are deep in poverty.

"The ANC is stealing the money to buy votes during elections, so these costly statues are their way to loot," said EFF Mpumalanga chairperson Collen Sedibe.

Sedibe said the event to unveil the statue also cost a lot of money.

"If the statue itself is R8.3m and with the ceremony where they hired tents, catering and bought ANC T-shirts, we are talking of R20m.

"We can't keep quiet when a government event is turned into an ANC campaign," Sedibe said.

The DA said it has written to the auditor-general to investigate the procurement around the commissioning of the statue.

Members of the public told Sowetan they had no choice but to live with the statue even though they would have preferred the money to be spent on their immediate needs.

But Mtsweni defended the procurement around the statue, saying the government has, in fact, saved a lot of money.

"We all know the role Tata Mandela played and we want our future generation to know it by seeing the statue here," Mtsweni said. "This is a way to thank and show how Mandela played a part in our liberation as a country.

"We have saved money and [spent] less than what we had budgeted for."

However, this was disputed by the opposition parties in the province.

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