R14 mln for TV instead of crops
As the rot in the KZN Agriculture Department starts being rooted out, it has emerged the department is being sued for pulling the plug on a R14 million deal for top officials to star in a promotional series on community television.
An investigation by The Witness reveals that Durban-based media company Ss Media last year entered into a deal with the provincial Agriculture Department to have its programmes advertised on community television, 1KZN TV, for R14 million.
The adverts would have featured some of the department’s top brass, including MEC Themba Mthembu.
However, the department soon found itself in legal troubles after the Provincial Treasury Department refused to authorise the payment to Ss Media after the contract had been found to be in violation of government guidelines.
But Ss Media is not budging.
“As far as we are concerned there is a binding contract in place and as such we find ourselves with no other option but to pursue the legal route to get the other party to perform,” Lee Govender, Ss Media’s administration manager said. The contract between the department and Ss Media is part of deals amounting close to R100 million that The Witness has established are part of what Mthembu recently described as “the work of kingpins” in the department. Attempts to clamp down on questionable deals within the department have also seen another Durban company, Courtesy Marketing, taking Agriculture to court after the department had pulled out of an agreement to sponsor the annual uMthayi Marula Festival in Jozini.
Richard Stuurman, the lawyer representing Courtesy Marketing, said his client had opted for the legal route after the department failed to pay for “services rendered”.
This after the department had entered into a contractual agreement to sponsor the festival to the tune of R2,5 million.
A senior official in the department’s communication and media unit has since been suspended for his role in the two contracts.
Regarded as one of the main catalysts for economic growth in the province, the department has been struggling to put its house in order due to years of political meddling and widespread corruption.
Early this year the department was forced to lay criminal charges after more than 40 cases of corruption involving close to R10 million were uncovered.
Approached for comment on the contracts between the department and the two companies, Ss Media and Courtesy Marketing, Mthembu confirmed the department was currently locked in a legal dispute with the companies.
Democratic Alliance provincial agriculture spokesperson Sizwe Mchunu said Agriculture is about to collapse.
“The department has consistently been performing dismally on each and every indicator, including spending.
“For example, this planting season they could not plant — the department is on the verge of collapse.”
KZN provincial legislature finance portfolio chairperson, Sipho Nkosi, said he was concerned about the way the department had been handling its finances. “We have been expecting an improvement but what we are witnessing is a department that keeps on regressing,” Nkosi said.