Shoddy planning could see Nokuthula LSEN School demolished at a cost of R300 million to the taxpayer

The Nokuthula LSEN School in Lyndhurst, Johannesburg for learners with special educational needs is at risk of being demolished if the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development and Property Management (DID) cannot have the building plans approved and if the department cannot obtain a permanent occupancy certificate.

This will be a serious inconvenience for parents and learners who will now have to wait many years for the school to be rebuilt and will have to find an alternative school for their children. Having a school that caters to the needs of our children who may have learning difficulties is extremely important if we want to ensure that all our children are given a fair chance to learn in an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning.

In terms of the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) Planning Department, building plans must be approved before the project may start.

DID failed to submit any plans since 2015, and now they cannot produce an invoice as evidence that they have submitted the plans as they claim they have done in November 2021.

A section of the new property is currently being occupied, but the department also cannot produce a temporary occupancy certificate for the school.

A demolition order will then be issued, and the R300 million spent will be reduced to rubble. Should this happen, it will clearly show that DID has no regard for how our taxpayers’ money is spent.

The department claims that building plans were submitted in 2021, but to date, CoJ have no record of the plans being submitted, and the committee is waiting for a copy of the invoice. The MEC for Infrastructure Development and Property Management, Tasneem Motora, has since failed to produce proof that all the documentation was submitted to CoJ.

While DID is hiding behind reports regarding the shoddy workmanship, I have been in discussion with the Department of Development at the CoJ who confirmed that no building plans have been submitted to date.

That is seven years after breaking ground on the building of this new school.

During a recent committee meeting, it came to light that there is rising damp which is damaging the school buildings. The redesign of the stormwater system and a geotechnical investigation should be done. This is to ascertain and verify whether the building is ready for occupation.

It would appear as if the DID is now operating in reverse and trying to fix horrendous errors that should not have been made in the first place, had an Environmental Impact Assessment been done before the school was built.

So far, the cost of building this much-needed school has already ballooned to nearly R300 million from the budgeted R248 million and it seems that the cost for this school will keep rising.

Having social infrastructure like schools and clinics built is very important if we want to ensure that all our residents are given an equal footing to access services that will help improve their lives.

We cannot have a situation where learners will now be displaced because our government has failed to do all the necessary checks and balances.

The DA on several occasions has demanded the dissolution of the DID and for the Premier to fire MEC Motara due to the failure of her department to deliver infrastructure projects. Our motion on the dissolution of the DID was denied by the ANC which was meant to stop the continued waste of taxpayers’ money. We will continue to apply pressure on the ANC government to dissolve the DID and allow line departments to manage their own infrastructure projects to give Gauteng residents the services that they deserve.

The DA will be demanding answers through the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to determine why millions of rands in taxpayers’ money has been wasted on a school that is needed in our province and that is now at risk of being demolished.