http://www.capeargus.co.za/?fSectionId=&fArticleId=vn20071208100307689C776812ANC's R30m Polokwane conference tab
8 December 2007, 10:13
By Fiona Forde
The ANC will have little change out of R30-million at the end of the five-day conference in Polokwane, as organisers and hosts pull out all the stops to pave the way for the political event.
According to figures made available to the Weekend Argus, the cost of erecting the required structures on the campus of the University of Limpopo alone is close to R13-million.
A 50m2 by 105m2 marquee, designed to cater for the 5 000 ANC delegates who will gather for the plenary sessions, comes with a price tag of R8-million.
Add to that two 25m2 by 100m2 adjoining structures for the dining hall, a kitchen area, five satellite tents located next to the main marquee, and it's easy to see the costs escalating. That's not counting what air-conditioning, wiring, rented furnishings and stand-by generators will set the comrades back.
It is understood that Anglovaal has picked up the costs of the dining hall and kitchen structures, but the Weekend Argus was unable to confirm that.
Without Anglovaal's rumoured support, it is understood the cost of staging the ANC event would be close to R40-million. It is also not clear what other benefactors have come to the rescue of the comrades.
"These things are never cheap," one source said. "We've had to buy so much steel for these tents that you could lay it along a 1,5km stretch of road."
And that is not counting the panes of glass that line the tented structures which are located on the sports grounds close to the main entrance to the university.
Given the distance from the main university buildings, dozens of temporary toilets will be installed to service the guests. Sewage pipes have already been laid and on Wednesday the toilets were ready to be installed.
"Polokwane will be infinitely more expensive than Stellenbosch," said one ANC organiser, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We didn't have to put up so many tents there, because we were able to use the main halls and buildings of the university. But not here, where we don't have the infrastructure and most of the services and centres had to be tailor-made for this conference."
Nearby, a truck was offloading 400 000 bottles of mineral water, which will be cooled as refrigerator space becomes available each day. Some 15 000 bottles of fizzy drinks were expected to arrive a day later.
The caterers will begin to set up shop next week to prepare their kitchens to dish up breakfast, lunch and dinner to the 5 000 guests every single day.
Although food costs could not be established, "seventy-five thousand meals is a hell of a lot of money, and it's the ANC and not the guests who are paying for that", explained the same organiser.
Meanwhile, as the last of the 6 650 students packed up their belongings and prepared to leave the campus for their end-of-year break, cleaners and fumigators were busy working on the 74 residential blocks that will house the 3 700 ANC delegates, along with 2 000-plus other guests and observers, during the event. The city of Polokwane has only 2 000 hotel beds, and the university has offered to house over and above the number of expected delegates.
In preparation for the VIP guests and political dignitaries who will begin to arrive next weekend, the university has purchased "5 000 new mattresses, 5 000 new pillows, 5 000 new duvets and duvet covers, 5 000 sets of sheets and new curtains for all the units", according to the one staff member. That alone has cost R2,8-million, and is not included in the overall cost of R30-million.
It is not clear who picked up those costs.
Security will also be accounted for separately and, given the current bitter climate, it's envisaged that no costs will be spared to ensure minimum disturbance.
Members of state security are already in place, according to one private security guard, with "a small number of plain-clothes officers manning the entrance gates each night".
The main contingent are expected to arrive in the coming days, and they will work with Urban Africa, the security company that services the university year-round, as well as members of the army who will also be drafted in. Organisers declined to say what security measures would be put in place or how many personnel would work the event.
However, they will be mindful of the mounting interest in the leadership contest which is expected to draw onlookers from the surrounding areas and beyond.
Although the majority of Limpopo nominations went to Thabo Mbeki a fortnight ago, it was only by a small margin and on a second count, suggesting there are an equal number of Jacob Zuma supporters throughout the province.
Folk from the nearby village of Nobody-Go-Mothiba, the home ground of ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe, say they wouldn't miss the conference for the world.
"We don't even have to get a bus to get there. We can walk. And we'll all be there, at the gates, to hear them announce that JZ has won," said local man Sammy Mahlaba.
Spending whose money again??