Cape minstrels: follow the money

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Cape Town’s minstrel leaders this week unpacked a paper trail on how they spend millions of public funds, as political leaders called on them to come clean.

Richard Stemmet and Kevin Momberg, respectively chairman and chief executive of the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association (CTMCA), have been at the centre of a struggle involving power, politicians and money that has brewed for a while before it exploded into the public eye this week.

Cape minstrel leaders (left to right) Kevin Momberg and Richard Stemmet talk about how they spend millions to develop poor communities. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Cape minstrel leaders (left to right) Kevin Momberg and Richard Stemmet talk about how they spend millions to develop poor communities. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Beyond the glittery, smiling faces of Cape minstrels, the CTMCA has been battling with Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, who labelled them liars this week after they called off the annual Tweede Nuwe Jaar minstrel parade hours before it was meant to take place on Monday.

They said they called it off for logistic reasons – lack of parking and buses, while holding the parade on a regular working day would affect businesses.

De Lille said she wanted their expenses audited as the city paid them to organise the cancelled parade, now set for January 17.

Stemmet and Momberg, along with Cape Malay choirs and Christmas bands mostly located on the Cape Flats, are part of the Cape Cultural and Carnival Committee (CCCC) launched in November.

De Lille signed an agreement with this committee that it would for the first time organise various festive season events.

Previously, the City of Cape Town (CoCT) organised these events, including the historical Tweede Nuwe Jaar, with the minstrels “being guests while event companies walked away with the money,” said Stemmet.

CoCT gave the CCCC R2-million to organise four cultural events. This was paid into CTMCA’s account as the recently launched CCCC still had to finalise its paperwork, said Stemmet.

The R2-million had to be used for “toilets, fencing, private security, safety officers, medical services, logistics and public relations”.

CoCT also offered “venue rental waivers, generators, waste management, traffic services, metro police, law enforcement, disaster risk management, fire services, road traffic signage, street parking pay rental and poster fee waiver” valued at R1,65-million for the Tweede Nuwe Jaar parade.

The Western Cape provincial government gave CCCC close to R2,35-million towards organising the four events.

The Tweede Nuwe Jaar parade was originally scheduled for January 3 but that date was changed out of respect for the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday celebrations that Muslim minstrels would observe on that date.

A new date was set for January 5 and the minstrels said this affected their plans and budget. Stemmet said the CCCC had already booked buses from Golden Arrow for January 3, which did not have sufficient buses for January 5.

“We then needed to rent private buses and told De Lille this. The buses would cost at least R5,000 each and we need 200 buses to transport people to the city. We didn’t have the budget for this,” he said.

Stemmet accused De Lille and the CoCT of “trying to discredit us and show that we can’t organise this event”.

“They have derailed us… Now De Lille is making a noise about the crumbs they have given us to organise these events,” he said.

Stemmet said the four traditional festive season events the CCCC had to organise in central Cape Town and Bo-Kaap included the ‘Voorsmaakie’, or Foretaste, on December 16, which marks Reconciliation Day.

They also organised a Christmas band parade from Rose Street in Bo-Kaap to the Grand Parade on Darling Street. On December 31, they organised a Cape Malay choir parade and Tweede Nuwe Jaar would have been the last gathering.

Stemmet and Momberg said their expenses included hiring buses, paying a service provider R300,000 to erect fencing along the routes the troupes parade, as well as ensuring security.

Momberg said: “We hired a few hundred security guards and marshals for each event. We pay them each R300 a day and give them a meal for the day and money for transport.”

De Lille’s spokeswoman Zara Nicholson said yesterday the CCCC “has to keep accounts and report on the expenditure of the funding”.

“The CTMCA as the receiving authority must provide an independently audited set of statements to verify how expenditure was incurred. The City also retains the right to conduct a separate independent audit through the offices of the auditor general should it require a subsequent audit,” she said.

“All event recipients of funding and services are required to submit an event performance report as well as audited financial statements… Subsequent funding is blocked unless the funding is adequately accounted for.”

The provincial government’s department of cultural affairs and sport has meanwhile found no fault with the CCCC’s finances.

Annerie Pruis-Le Roux, its head of communications, said the department “allocated a total of R2,236,910 for various programmes and activities” to the CCCC.

She confirmed this was for the “Malay Choirs street march; the Christmas bands street march; and various minstrel and Malay Choir competitions”.

“Some of these events have already taken place, such as the Malay Choir and Christmas band street marches,” she said.

Pruis-Le Roux also confirmed “following a collective decision taken by representatives of the minstrels, Malay Choirs and Christmas bands, the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association would be the conduit for these funds”.

She said Stemmet and Momberg’s CTMCA has “in the past complied with applicable requirements and submitted audited financial statements”.

“They submitted their financial statements and these complied with the requirements of department,” she said.

Momberg and Stemmet said De Lille and others could go ahead with the audit, while political parties launched a series of accusations against each other.

“They have been getting a free show and paid events companies to walk away with the money. They give us crumbs and want to kick up a fuss,” said Stemmet.

“The money that they have given us does not filter down to the teams. They do not benefit from this money. We don’t make money out of this event. The money goes purely to services. We are going to show them an audit and all the paperwork. We will show her where we spent the money.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) accused DA of “countless attempts to derail the event”.

It also alleged minstrel leaders were indebted to the ANC Western Cape leader Marius Fransman who they said played a role in securing National Lotteries Board (NLB) funding for the CTMCA.

Fransman dismissed these allegations and the CTMCA said the EFF “have nothing to do with the minstrels”.

Stemmet said: “Go to the Lotto and ask them if it’s true. We apply for funding like everybody else.”

Fransman urged the minstrels to “get your act together and unify”.

“Make sure that the captains and normal members get their fair share of opportunity… They must make sure there is no misuse of funds,” he said.

Funds from the CoCT and provincial government is peanuts compared to the millions the NLB had granted the CTMCA over the years.

NLB’s acting chief executive Phillemon Letwaba said this week they have paid the Stemmet and Momberg’s association R45,492,959 between 2002 and 2014.

Letwaba said some of the CTMCA were not successful every year when they applied for funding. Their biggest grant was R27,320,759, paid in 2001. Last year, they were paid R13,75-million.

Letwaba said while this money was paid to CTMCA, it was also for its partners on various projects. He said one project was “in relation to a partnership application made on behalf of two smaller organisations”.

“The two assisted organisations, Haqun, and Seven Saints were allocated R5-million and R7,5-million respectively from the allocation of R13,75-million with the balance of R1,25-million paid to the CTMCA for administration as per the partnership model,” he said.

“Funds are paid over to the assisting organisation, which would then, in terms of this arrangement, transfer the money to the assisted organisations in line with approved allocation.”

Stemmet and Momberg said they used the Lottery funds to buy instruments for minstrel bands, pay each of its 40 troupes between R7,000 and R30,000 a year to operate, and buy trophies for their competition winners.

The two also run a business in Lansdowne where they have set up a factory to produce minstrel costumes, for which they use NLB funding. While there is a conflict of interest and they benefit financially from this arrangement, they defended their right to produce the costumes.

Momberg said: “Another company made the costumes years ago. The owner didn’t want to make it anymore. He asked Stemmet if he wanted to buy the business, and he did. He could see that Stemmet is good at business.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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