Fresh from celebrating the city’s about-turn allowing them to resume their traditional route through Bo-Kaap on Tweede Nuwejaar, minstrels say the city has hit them with a “bombshell”: it is to cut all funding.
Negotiations between city officials and minstrel groups were going smoothly until yesterday when the officials broke the no-funding news.
It came like “an 11th-hour bombshell”, said the groups’ spokesman and Cape Town attorney, Ighsaan Higgins, moments after talks were suspended.
Higgins said they were told the city would fund only six events, including the Cape Town Jazz Festival and the Cape Town Carnival.
On October 4, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille announced the city had appointed retired Constitutional Court judge Kate O’Regan as a mediator to lead negotiations and pave the way for a successful carnival. At the time, De Lille said the measures were part of her administration’s commitment to “build an inclusive city” by commemorating culturally significant events such as the minstrel carnival.
The parties have since made progress on the parade’s traditional route through the Bo-Kaap and staging it on January 2, also known as Tweede Nuwe Jaar (Second New Year).
For several years city officials have restricted the number of troupes marching and also blocked off the Bo-Kaap, where the minstrels originated in times of slavery.
Since 2009, authorities have argued that January 2 was not an official holiday and that a carnival in the city interrupted businesses.
“We’re at a crossroads. The city threw us a bomb when it told us the groups will not get the grant. All negotiations are now in disarray. The conclusion of mediation is now suspended,” Higgins said.
He said while news of zero funding was a disappointment, the minstrels were hopeful a meeting with De Lille would have a different outcome.
De Lille is in Taipei and returns on November 6.
“We don’t believe the officials the city deployed have enough gravitas to resolve this. We want to meet the mayor and senior officials,” said Higgins.
He said minstrels received about R400 000 in city funding every year.
“It actually represents a lot of money for the poorest in the city,” Higgins said.
Cape Male Choir Board president Ebrahim Hull said: “We expected to resolve issues together with the city. Now, after three days of meetings, we sit with an announcement of no funding. We are not very impressed. It leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth.”
De Lille’s spokesman, Solly Malatsi, said the mayor had initiated the mediation process and was committed to finding solutions.
“Mediation was adjourned to allow parties to seek clarity on some outstanding issues, including the grant.
“The city is committed to the process and will ensure mediation resumes as soon as possible to resolve the issues and pave the way for the successful hosting of Tweede Nuwejaar,” he said.
Malatsi said: “Officials will report back to the mayor. The mayor is committed to resolving the issues in the mediation.”