EASTERN Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet has stood by her decision to urge government departments to buy tables at a lavish East London fashion show.
In a formal letter sent to MECs earlier this month, Kiviet appealed to her executive council to each pay R10000 for a table.
The premier’s decision sparked outrage from a senior government official, an MEC and opposition parties. However her spokesman, Manelisi Wolela, said yesterday the premier’s appeal "to support a young female entrepreneur was just an appeal, nothing more, nothing less” .
Kiviet also refused to apologise for sending the letter. Although it does not specifically state that MECs or departments must use taxpayers’ money to buy tables, it has been interpreted as such by public officials.
The launch of the fashion brand, run by a 100% black empowerment team, is scheduled to take place at Hemingways Mall in East London on August 25.
"If we do not support those that have initiatives of this nature the realisation of a better life for women in our province will remain a pipe dream,” Wolela said.
The fashion show’s guest list includes Mamelodi Sundowns president Patrice Motsepe’s wife, Precious, former Proteas cricketer Makhaya Ntini, White Wedding actress Zandile Msutwana and District 9 star Sibulele Gcilitshana.
The owner of the trendy line, Noxolo Sitshinga, of East London, confirmed Kiviet had already paid for a table of 10.
However, opposition parties questioned Kiviet’s motives, asking why she had favoured Sitshinga.
DA MPL John Cupido said: "It looks like the premier is favouring this woman. Obviously, people do need help but this is not the way to do it.”
But Wolela said the premier was committed to ensuring opportunities were given to women.
"Many women are still struggling to make ends meet and put food on their tables because they are unemployed ... [the office of the premier will] participate robustly in the economic development of our country,” Wolela said.
A high-ranking government official, who did not want to be named, said Kiviet "did not even recognise what she did was wrong”.
"It is strange that she can’t see, as the leader of the province, that it is clearly favouritism and one-sided,” he said.