Public paid R750,000 for Zuma pal’s funeral
Durban ratepayers forked out more than R750,000 for the funeral of one of President Jacob Zuma's most vocal backers, controversial businessman Don Mkhwanazi.
It emerged during a sitting of the eThekwni municipality's executive committee yesterday that, although the council was in recess because of the August 3 local government elections, city officials approved the payment towards Mkhwanazi's funeral on July 9. The funeral was held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre.
Now opposition parties are demanding answers, saying that it was higher than the municipality usually contributed towards the funerals and memorial services of its own councillors.
It was also disclosed that the municipality paid just R15,000 towards burial assistance for each of the families of eight children that died in a horrific fire at an orphanage in Durban's Lakehaven suburb less than a month earlier.
Mkhwanazi was a prominent businessman and a pioneer of black economic development.
However, he is best known for heading the Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust, a fundraising organisation that helped to pay for Zuma's legal bills in his fight against corruption charges.
Mkhwanazi's businesswoman widow, Zodwa Msimang, is also a regular tender winner in the municipality, largely through her events and communications company Ikhono Communications, and she sits on the board of the convention centre where the funeral was held.
Msimang said via text message yesterday: "Please note I was not part of the organising committee for the funeral."
She did not respond to a follow-up text offering her a chance to comment on the criticism of the amount spent.
Opposition parties did not hold back at yesterday's meeting.
"I'm trying to understand how you can explain this," said the IFP's Mdu Nkosi. "How you could pay so much towards a person who has got a lot of money."
The DA's Zwakele Mncwango, who previously raised concern about an amount of about R200,000 given towards the funerals of city councillors, said: "We fight over R200,000 for a councillor...but this is close to a million rands on a funeral. We are taking public funds to support a public funeral of a businessperson.
"Compare it with the R15,000 for some of the poor, and there are many families who are poor and come here, but we can't assist, but a businessman gets support of R760,000. I'd like to know how this money was spent," he said.
City manager Sibusiso Sithole said the costs were "by and large" related to the venue.
"This was almost a national funeral, if one can say that, given the stature of the person we're referring to.
"We took into account, really, the contribution of this person to the life of this city and its residents and the fact that the funeral had that status of a national funeral."
Mayor Zandile Gumede said a full report on the spending should be compiled and the matter tabled at a subsequent Exco meeting.
Sales and marketing manager at the ICC Scott Langley said he was unable to comment about the costs of Mkhwanazi's funeral.
"The Durban ICC is bound by its confidentiality agreement with its clients and cannot divulge the specific details of a past event without being in breach of this agreement."
In terms of the general costs of using the ICC, Langley said one of the main halls would cost about R99,000 a day, "depending on the specific venue in question".
Catering was priced at between R175 and R215 a head, and audio-visual costs were about R60,000 for a standard sound system.
Décor, entertainment or specialised security would have to be paid by the client, he said.