DA shadow minister of tourism, Hlanganani Gumbi, said the cooking date between Somizi Mhlongo and the minister of tourism was a waste of money.

eNCA also aired an in-depth episode of Check Point, presented by Nkepile Mabuse about the same issue on Tuesday night.

Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane hosted a celebrity cook-off event, which cost R150 000, ahead of budget debate vote last month.

“This expenditure was completely unnecessary, wasteful, and does nothing to help the tourism industry get back on its feet after the government-led lockdown. Instead, what it does is promote the minister and her public profile at the taxpayers’ cost,” said Gumbi.

He questioned the minister in parliament last week where he demanded to know how much was used and the reasons why the event was hosted in the first place.

Kubayi-Ngubane said the R150 000 was used to cover the venue and mobile kitchen hire as well as event staffing, safety, event compliance requirements, the stage, sound system, food supplies, exhibition set-up and publicity, including live-streaming of activities.

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She said the event was meant for departmental awareness activities, including giving graduate chefs from their training programme the platform to show what they had learnt.

“It is also important to state there was no payment made to Mr Somizi Mhlongo and the department notes with concern the general public perception that he benefited from the event, which is not the case,” she said.

Gumbi said instead of spending money cooking with Somizi, the minister should have helped more than 100 accommodation businesses benefit from free grading or even helped clear the rates charges.

Gumbi said Kubayi-Ngubane should focus on rebuilding the tourism industry which has been battered by Covid-19. He said he was also disappointed the minister accepted the appointment by President Cyril Ramaphosa to act as health minister after Dr Zweli Mkhize was placed on special leave last week.

“Tourism cannot afford both a part-time minister as well as one with poor judgement regarding spending priorities. If the minister was serious about the tourism sector and its recovery, she would have declined the president’s request to step in as acting health minister and focused on actually getting the tourism industry going again,” Gumbi said.