A group of delegates to the R69-million World Youth and Student Festival spent most of their time playing kissing games under the Pretoria sun.
Workshop and seminar halls were left almost empty at the week-long festival, funded to the tune of R40-million by the National Lotteries Board with an extra R29-million thrown in by the Presidency.
"You run around the circle, pick a guy or girl you would like to kiss, take them to the middle of the circle and indulge for a few seconds," said one foreign delegate who refused to be named.
A delegate from Nepal, who also declined to identify himself seconds after passionately kissing another delegate, said the kiss was "nice". He said he was playing the game to keep himself busy.
Cancelled programme topics included equality between men and women, freeing Africa from "imperialist military bases", blockades, embargoes and sanctions, economic terrorism and the struggle for peace in the African islands.
Events that went ahead included those dealing with public, free, universal access to education, science, culture and information. This session drew only 11 young people. Another seminar room was half-filled.
While the delegates frolicked in the sun, political heavyweights listed as guest speakers at workshops failed to arrive.
Some listed on the programme, which was hastily changed yesterday, included Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula (a former ANC Youth League president), struggle veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale and Chris Malekane, of Cosatu.
The National Youth Development Agency said the politicians did not confirm their attendance on time and as a result failed to arrive.
Agency chairman Andile Lungisa said it would change the list of speakers depending on their availability.
"We are not married to any personalities in the conference. What we are married to is that the conference must move on very well and there must be people who must speak on behalf of South Africa."
Asked why sessions were delayed or cancelled, Lungisa said: "All the sessions did take place but they were delayed. It was also not easy to transport the large number of delegates from where they stay.
"Buses were struggling to get here on time, we even had to ask the city of Tshwane to assist [and escort buses] so that there can be flexibility on the road."
Lungisa said he could not confirm how many delegates were in the country, but said he was satisfied with how the day went.
"I think we have proceeded so well, at least we don't have any headaches," he said.
student Leziwe Sondake said she was disappointed. Delegates asking for directions were continually sent to the wrong places.
"We just don't know what is going on here. The co-ordinators are not helpful," she said.
"I think they should have printed pamphlets so that they can guide us and tell us what will happen from today, and where."
Vijay Kadam, a delegate from the India Nationalist Student Congress, said everything had gone wrong for him since he arrived on Monday.
"I stay at Muzinda residence and ever since I got here I have not bathed with hot water. The seminars are also disorganised. Some got cancelled. We did not come all the way to South Africa to go through this."
Early yesterday morning, disgraced former national mpolice commissioner Jackie Selebi was sitting on a bench with US citizen Joe Sims, who said they were "good friends".
Asked if he would be a guest speaker at the festival, as the agenda indicated, Selebi said: "For what? I am here to watch the showgrounds."
DA, COPE and AfriForum youth leaders said the festival was a farce.
DA youth leader Gana Makashule said: "The festival itself was organised by the ANC Youth League. Now the taxpayer is being asked to fund it. Now also the Lotteries Board has donated R40-million to the event. If we had participated in the festival, it means that we would also have agreed for taxpayers money to be used in that fashion."
"When the festival ends on Tuesday what would come out of it that would benefit South Africans?"
Original story http://www.timeslive.co.za/R69m-for-this
A disgraceful waste of money in a country where poverty is all prevalent and medical facilities are falling apart. How many more of these ill conceived money grabbing disasters do we need have before somebody wakes up to the fact that you and I the public are paying for these screw ups?