Millions being spent on Essence are worth it‚ says Durban city boss
The Essence Festival is a developmental project and not a commercial venture‚ the eThekwini Municipality's acting economic development head‚ Phillip Sithole‚ said on Thursday.
He was speaking at the launch of the festival's entertainment weekend‚ which will feature a carnival‚ a concert headlined by Grammy Award-winner Gill Scott‚ and a spiritual revival session featuring Joyous Celebration and Bishop TD Jakes.
Sithole was also speaking in the context of media reports - and complaints by the Democratic Alliance - that costs for the 2016 edition of the event had ballooned from an initial R35-million‚ to R95-million and then to a reported R103-million.
But while Sithole did not specifically mention finances‚ he was adamant that it was money well spent and lured tens of thousands of visitors to the city.
Sitole said that last year's festival brought in over 61‚000 visitors throughout the different offerings.
"This is a city-owned event that shows bigger numbers than any other city-owned event‚ save the Durban July‚" he said.
Sithole said that the municipality is still "growing the event and still planting the seeds".
"I stress that this is about development‚ exposing new performers and marketing them. Most of it is free. Tickets are only being sold as a means for crowd control‚" he said.
Jakes‚ who will be appearing at the Essence All Star Gospel Concert on Sunday with Joyous Celebration‚ described himself at the media conference as "a man on a mission".
"I have something uplifting to say but something practical too. I don’t want to anaesthetise‚ but to energise. It's not an airplane that brought me‚ here it is love‚" he said.
Jakes will also run a business session on Saturday morning.