R85 Million Squandered on 104 Uninhabitable Homes

Private Property South Africa

The latest housing scandal to make the news reveals just how deep-seated corruption and malpractice is in South Africa. According to reports, the office of public protector Thuli Madonsela has been asked to investigate an unfinished housing development in Saulsville near Atteridgeville, which, despite costing R85 million, has been declared unfit for human habitation.

The development comprises just 104 units measuring less than 50m² each which effectively equates to a price tag of R817 000 for each unit. A mite steep for properties of this calibre, especially given that the same amount of money could buy a three bedroom house in Glenvista, or a three bedroom townhouse in Elandspark. The hefty price tag is that much harder to swallow in light of the fact that a certificate of occupation has not been issued because of the poor condition of the units.

The units were originally commissioned by the City of Tshwane in a bid to improve the living conditions of those residing in dilapidated hostels in the immediate area. Unfortunately, it would appear that the project has been riddled with scandal from the very beginning. Opposition parties have alleged that the contracts awarded to construct the units were granted to “unsuitable” companies which enjoy ties to “powerful” ANC politicians and municipal officials.

It has also emerged that those due to take occupation seemingly should not have been entitled to do so in the first place. Saulsville residents have claimed that people earmarked to take occupation do not live in the area and paid bribes to be allowed to move in once the units were completed, despite an arrangement outlining local residents would be prioritised. Had occupation taken place, skirmishes would in all probability have ensued. The issue has become a moot point however given the current state of affairs.

The project managers behind the units have refused to take any responsibility for the debacle stating that they were not involved with the actual construction of the units. Furthermore, they claim to have submitted detailed reports on the status of the project to the City of Tshwane around the beginning of 2012 and again in July 2012 to no response. The reports apparently outlined how some service providers hadn’t been paid and that delays had occurred due to the city reducing the budget and using the money for other projects.

Adding insult to injury, the city’s housing division and mayoral committee have reportedly only moved for the consultants and contractors involved to be blacklisted from doing business with the city. To date, no civil or criminal charges have been brought against those concerned.

The IFP’s Alvin Madela stated: “It is a shame that so much money was spent on these units and they are not even habitable. Since the contractors left the site, the units have been vandalised. The municipality had to spend an additional R5 million to fix them and another R500 000 to construct a palisade fence around the units. It is a shame [about] what [has] happened here. These units are not even proper structures; the walls are cracking before people have even moved in.”

The DA says it will request an official investigation into the matter. DA housing spokesperson Janet Semple commented: “The staggering price tag for one unit could have bought at least 12 of the 40m ² freestanding two-bedroom houses being rolled out by the DA-led Midvaal municipality. Some 1300 houses could be built with the Midvaal model from the R85 million allocation.

“This brazen waste of public money and disregard for the serious housing needs of the people of Tshwane must not go unpunished. Gauteng local government MEC Ntombi Mekgwe must investigate the inflated price for these houses and the failure to complete the contract to requirements. The MEC must ensure that the contractors are not just blacklisted but also prosecuted.”

The SACP in Gauteng echoed similar sentiments to that of the DA and IFP. The public protector’s office is currently waiting for more information from complainants. Only time will tell if anyone will be held accountable for the debacle.

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