Millions in taxpayer money to be spent on Nkandla

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Public Works, Dianne Kohler Barnard MP, during the Budget Vote on Public Works.
There are massive issues in the Department of Public Works, but Minister Thulas Nxesi and his team were slowly but surely turning this shipwreck of an entity they inherited from the previous Minister, around.
Sadly the current President decided to shift this man behind the success story and put in his place South Africa’s Cecil B. DeMille award-winning producer of the world famous 2015 Nkandla Firepool movie.
It’s difficult not to wonder just how handy it will be for this Minister to finally control exactly how much more of taxpayers’ money will be spent on the KZN palace of corruption.
Indeed just 24 days after his appointment his department were frantically denying a Times newspaper story about further plans to lavish more as-yet unknown millions on the Nkandla homestead, which has already been upgraded at a cost of R246-million.
As a committee we’ve seen the sad departure of our stellar chairperson, the now Deputy Minister Ben Martins, congratulations on your promotion, Sir. But we do have a newly elected chairperson who for some bizarre reason is an acting-chair – why?
Just for once, please appoint an eminently suitable chairperson without first waiting month-after-month on permission from Luthuli House.
A year ago I raised the issue of 24 affidavits where individuals were refused EPWP jobs by three ANC Councillors, two men and a woman, from Illovo and uMlazi – because they didn’t have ANC membership cards.
This is of course just the tip of the iceberg, but I received from the Department a carefully worded letter in answer.
However, I know full well that Ward Councillors across ANC run municipalities, and certainly in eThekwini, are mandated to and do hand out EPWP job opportunities.
Further proof of the corruption and political influence that permeates the EPWP, certainly in one of the last few Metros the ANC still controls for now – eThekwini – was proven when a DA Councillor walked into an EPWP meeting at the ICC on the 7th March. He was ordered to leave by the eThekwini mayor, as it was “an ANC caucus meeting”!
Despite the fact that I have been assured over and over again by Deputy Minister Cronin that the EPWP does not see work opportunities given only to ANC cadres, what happened in Durban indicates that I have been misled. All eThekwini EPWP workers were in the meeting, and the Mayor, we are informed, went on to promise to extend the EPWP contracts until the work opportunities became permanent jobs.
It is abuse, clear and simple.
The proliferation of EPWP job opportunities for the people of all the DA-run metros is a priority. Tshwane’s new DA Mayor is determined that the EPWP does not repeatedly benefit the same group of individuals to the exclusion of others. In Johannesburg, Mayor Herman Mashaba is determined that the EPWP does not repeatedly benefit the same group of individuals to the exclusion of others.
His approach completely excludes councillors from involvement in the recruitment process. This is a DA solution to avoid any possibility of the programme being abused by certain parties for political purposes and vote-buying.
The ability to work is key to personal dignity, and DA Metros are committed to creating opportunities for more people to find jobs, earn money and support their families.
Then there are the construction site invasions of KwaZulu-Natal. There is a feeling that the Police have done virtually nothing about this. Both government and private construction sites are invaded, and, for example, the R8-billion residential and hotel resort project near Sibaya Casino was shut down by armed invasions.
Over and over, at site after site, the perpetrators arrive lead by Delangokubona – 15 vehicles, 50 heavily armed people – invade, and demand that 40% of the work of a legally appointed tender be handed over.
It is irrelevant to them that construction companies have followed all protocols promoting opportunity for community upliftment and skills development. The invaders announce that they will not allow work to continue until they are handed the tender.
The installation of bulk sewage and water services was stopped. Construction at the Sibaya project stopped. Construction at the R1,8 billion Sun Coast development has been abandoned. Business operations are simply being shut down all across KZN, and these invasions, it is claimed, will soon reach the EC and Gauteng.
As long as these invasions are swept under the carpet, jobs will be lost.
Now to look at the Property Management Trading Entity, and the Immovable Assets Register. The national register is getting there. But to track down the ownership of an abandoned Government building is an exercise in chasing your own tail.
The Province hands your query to a municipality, who hands it to national, who hands it back to the Province. These are the buildings which are 15% of the immovable assets which should basically be condemned. That is some 17 000 buildings – abandoned, invaded, rat and lice infested, or sold by criminals using fake papers which has led to over 1200 properties lost altogether.
Having such a building in a residential area ensures that a slum is created and property prices destroyed. Finding out which level of Government owns it is a massive undertaking.
I revealed a year ago that there were rather strange co-ordinates for many of the listed properties: I had details of over 200 such properties with GPS co-ordinates showing them settled at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Those I referred to were from a single province.
Of course the Department frantically denied all this, but I know what I have. I also know there is a dedicated team trying to make a credible database of state-owned properties.
Operation Bringback is underway – nationally and provincially. 10 illegally transferred properties have been located; 10 other properties were referred to Gauteng government – where valuable properties were simply fraudulently exchanged for cheap properties.
The team has also examined the deeds records to look at 41 DPW employees who actually bought DPW properties, and have determined there are 2000 illegally occupied properties. Yet we rent buildings for departmental offices.
Possibly one of the most shocking facts revealed to the committee has been that R212m per MONTH is what we pay on leases.
1200 lost buildings, 17 000 derelict buildings, and we fork out R2,5 billion each year on renting private buildings – rentals paid to unknown bodies – unknown because I have asked but never received a reply as to who these property owners are.
The ANC government is making a connected few millionaires while Government-owned properties rot.
Finally the issue of no rates or services having been collected from certain government buildings over the past nine years. The debt nationally came to over R5,241-billion running back to 2008.
A year on and the DA now heads up numerous metros and municipalities, and has discovered that as with Cape Town when we took it over, no rates or services had been collected from government buildings. Money in terms of rates, equals the ability to deliver services. So we are collecting them, and we are delivering.
Much work needs to be done, much corruption needs to be rooted out, but meanwhile I’ll await the new movie: Nkandla – the Sequel.