KwaZulu-Natal Government Cancels SAMA Awards Hosting Amid Controversy

Public Outcry and Financial Concerns Lead to the Decision

The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) government has officially decided to cancel its plans to host the South African Music Awards (SAMA) in Durban next month. This decision comes after widespread public criticism and concerns over the R28 million budget allocated for the event.

ANC Provincial Chairperson and MEC for Economic Development, Tourism, and Environmental Affairs, Siboniso Duma, announced the cancellation during a media briefing. The event, initially scheduled for 17th and 18th November, was set to be broadcast live from Durban by the SABC. However, the decision to use state funds, redirected from other departments, sparked significant controversy. This financial move was particularly contentious given that it was made without involving the local music industry and artists in the two-day event’s high-profile activities.

The controversy intensified when a treasury memorandum was leaked to the media, revealing questionable expenditures, including R3 million for goody bags, an R11 million broadcast fee, and R6.5 million for a gala dinner. While the KZN government defended the event, claiming it would generate R350 million for the local economy, Duma clarified that the R28 million figure was part of a misinformation campaign. He stated that the actual amount, confirmed by the treasury, was around R20 million before VAT.

Duma emphasized that the decision to host the SAMAs was a collective one and that the procurement process followed by the department was transparent and free of irregularities. He expressed disappointment over the cancellation, noting that the event was seen as a beacon of hope for artists affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The SAMAs were viewed as a potential source of income for these artists, especially ahead of the festive season.

The decision to cancel the event also comes after ActionSA KwaZulu-Natal leader, Zwakele Mncwango, wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa, urging him to intervene over the expenditure. The eThekwini municipality had also committed an additional R2.5 million in funding for the event.

The cancellation of the SAMAs in KZN underscores the importance of transparency and public consultation in government decisions, especially when significant funds are involved. The music industry and the public will now await further announcements regarding the future of the SAMAs.

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