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Cape Town – The City has been slammed for the proposed allocation of R7.5 million to the Mayoral Art Collection, while residents were struggling to survive as poverty grows amid challenging economic times.
The City, meanwhile, said the money was to be used to refurbish a section of the City Hall and will be open to the public as a gallery.
Good secretary-general Brett Herron said hidden in the fine print of the City’s Adjustment Budget, to be tabled on Thursday, is a proposal to spend R7.57m on the Mayoral Art Collection.
The funding has been repurposed from the Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department’s budget.
Herron said he had written to the City manager to ask for an explanation.
“The R7.57m that Cape Town intends spending on the Mayoral Art Collection is made up of R7m that was meant to be spent in the last financial year, topped up by an additional R570 000 in ‘new’ funds. According to the budget, the R7m couldn’t be spent in the last financial year due to ‘supply constraints’,” Herron said.
“I was in council for nine years and do not recall the item. I don’t recall that the City ever bought art because the City owns so much art.”
Herron said social development had a mandate to assist the most vulnerable Capetonians, including the homeless and hungry, and early childhood development centres.
“In normal times, spending R7.5m would raise concern, in this day where people are losing homes and jobs it is just shocking that they are spending so much on art. I challenge anyone to tell me how buying art pieces for the mayoral art collection is more important than the services the City needs to provide and is failing to.”
Mayoral committee member for community service and health Zahid Badroodien said the funding in question is not being used to purchase art.
“It is for a project to refurbish one of the floors in the City Hall, and opening it to the public as a gallery.
“The City is in possession of many pieces of art acquired over the years, including by former administrations, as well as donated pieces and other historical artifacts. As part of our endeavour to make arts and culture accessible to all residents, and visitors, the City’s Arts and Culture branch undertook this project at City Hall. Any attempt to position it as anything else is most unfortunate,” Badroodien said.
Manenberg Women’s League co-ordinator Amelia Tara questioned how money could be spent on a gallery while there was so much hunger in communities.
“We are aware the disaster management budget got cut so they are not going to provide emergency packages for victims of shack fires but they can use money for fancy line items that only serve the rich. This is not a pro poor budget, they are not ensuring our people are covered with the rights of safety and security and shelter, they are mismanaging the budgets and there needs to be public hearings about it because there is a limit on public participation when they make these decisions,” she said.
Equal Rights Forum’s Noluthando Jack asked how any art piece would help hungry communities during the pandemic.
“How can you take money out of social development for a painting, what about the poor?
“We need to … make sure they come to us, the people, before making decisions that will affect us because there are many non-profit organisations that need money to feed the hungry,” Jack said.