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Commemorative days play an important role

Commemorative days play a significant role as we celebrate our constitution, our rich political history, and our cultural diversity.

These days are symbolic of the strides we have made as a collective and the freedom that we enjoy today after a repressive past. Observing commemorative days, therefore, allows us to educate the public on issues of concern, and ponder how far the country has come by taking stock of significant milestones in a country’s history, the country’s progress on key issues and achievements. In addition, these provide an opportunity for vigorous debates about the state of the country.

Be that as it may, the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) particularly the Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation (SACR) excessively and unnecessarily overspends to commemorate and celebrate these days. In a written reply to the DA’s questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL). Gauteng MEC for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation (SACR), Mbali Hlope shockingly revealed that the Department spent R58.6 million on commemorative day events in the last six financial years. In the 2021/22 financial year alone, this amounted to a total of R10.5 million. If this government was listening to the DA only a quarter of this R58 million could have been spent on these commemorative events while the rest of the money is channelled to service delivery.

While the Democratic Alliance recognises the significance of these days and why it is necessary to celebrate or commemorate them, we are also equally aware of how expenditure associated with these days lends itself to corrupt activities and wasteful expenditure where the province does not get good value for money. We have residents who find themselves in dire need of sporting facilities to nurture local talent. In most townships, they are using underdeveloped facilities and some communities are forced to commute to nearby suburbs to access proper sporting facilities. Young people in those communities are the ones most affected as the lack of such facilities hinders their development and further exposes them to social ills such as alcohol and substance abuse and crime.

The province can be more frugal in how we celebrate and observe these days. The DA has a solution to curb excessive spending on commemorative days. Instead of having these celebrations in places where exorbitant amounts need to be paid for hiring a venue, the organisers should rather use local public halls or stadiums. These are government-owned facilities that should be greatly utilised for such events and to save money. Furthermore, instead of hiring renowned artists for entertainment who charge excessive amounts, the organisers should rather make use of local talent. It is part of the department’s mandate to nurture talent from the grassroots. Not only does this showcase what the place has to offer, but this also provides up-and-coming artists and entertainers with a platform to showcase and hone their skills in their respective areas.

This is how the department can also uplift the communities while commemorating or observing the event instead of overspending on these celebratory events. In addition, such events should be used to support local businesses and SMMEs while further creating job opportunities for the residents. This also means that local businesses from the area where the event is held will benefit from rendering services at these events instead of the same recycled companies. The DA believes that GPG has a database of all the different SMMEs that can provide catering, décor, and sound systems in all the areas across the province instead of hiring people who do not reside in the area to render such services.

Furthermore, the department tends to bus people from different areas across to come and attend these commemorative events. The DA suggests that since the government has adopted a rotational system of commemorating these events, the residents where the event is held should be the ones physically attending the event. While interested parties in other areas can watch proceedings of events through big screen TV that can be installed in different communities to avoid incurring unnecessary transport costs. The DA believes that commemoration days are important as they form part of our history and identity, but the department must spend wisely and prioritise service delivery to create a better life for the residents of Gauteng.

We will continue to put pressure on MEC Hlophe to ensure that the department reduces overspending on commemorative events. This will ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and for the benefit of the residents of Gauteng, not only a few individuals who are politically aligned with the department.

By Kingsol Chabalala MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation (SACR)

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