Soccer scores half a billion rand, in tough times

While Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has warned of a “constrained fiscal environment”, Treasury has seen fit to allocate close to half a billion rand for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

The 2012 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, tabled on Thursday, reveals a total of about R460 million in “unforeseeable and unavoidable expenditure” has been set aside for the hosting of the soccer event.

This includes a R213 million allocation to the sports and recreation department, most of which will be distributed to host cities.

The SA Police Service will receive an additional R165 million to provide security, while the department of arts and culture will get R18.5 million for “creative programmes in respect of the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 final draw and opening and closing ceremonies”.

According to the 2012 Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure document, also tabled on Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is set to spend R18 million rand on providing services for heads of state who attend the tournament.

The department of home affairs will also get R15 million to spend on dedicated lanes for arriving teams and spectators at airports and border posts.

The presidency will receive R6 million for Brand South Africa to use during the event, while the Government Communications and Information System will provide services to the tune of R10 million.

Treasury will contribute R15 million to the health department to ensure medical services during the tournament.

Defending the spending at a media briefing on Thursday morning, Deputy Finance Minister Nhanhla Nene said he did not believe the amount spent on the event was extravagant.

“I do not regard the hosting of the [tournament]... as a vanity project. Neither would the soccer fraternity, [or] South Africans... ,” said Nene.

Spending on the event had been cut “to the bone”, he said.

Oversight bodies were welcome to hold government to account, and ensure the country got value for money out of the event.

Libya was meant to host the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tournament, but backed out as a result of the political turmoil in that country.

South Africa, which was meant to host the tournament in 2017, offered to stand in for Libya.