ANC bigwig in tender debacle

2012-07-28 15:38

Pilgrim’s Rest businesspeople at each others’ throats after eviction orders

Mpumalanga has awarded a tender to a construction company for the Pilgrim’s Rest Golf Club for just R33 a month.

And a five-year contract for the caravan park went to the same company for R48 883, despite other bids of more than R1.2 million for it.

Seventeen business operators in the historical gold-mining village and the provincial public works, roads and transport department to which it belongs, have been at each others’ throats since tenders were awarded to companies owned by politically connected people.

The operators were told to leave their buildings by the end of the month before successfully applying for an interdict in the North Gauteng High Court this week.

The businesses contended that the department’s tender process was neither transparent nor inclusive. They also said their eviction notices ignored existing lease agreements, some of which only expire in 2014.

Pilgrim’s Rest, which was declared a national monument in 1983, is a small tourist village with a population of about 2 000.

The former gold mining town, which hosts international gold-panning championships, is dotted with quaint, 19th-century Victorian buildings.

City Press understands that Gillion Mashego – the ANC’s chairperson in the Bohlabela region and a regional senior manager in the department of public works – chaired a number of Pilgrim’s Rest bid committee sessions. Sources said he had favoured companies from Bushbuckridge winning tenders to lease businesses in the town. Bushbuckridge is in the Bohlabela region.

Mashego declined to comment, as did public works spokesperson David Nkambule, who said the matter was “sub judice” because there was to be a review of the tender process.

The biggest beneficiary of the Pilgrim’s Rest tenders was Suzan Khoza (43), the sole director of Matletle Construction and Project.
Khoza won tenders for five businesses in the town – Mrs Mac’s Shop, Pilgrim’s Pantry and The Daisy (which all sell arts, crafts, curios and antiques); the golf course; and the caravan park.

A company belonging to a relative of hers, whose name is known to City Press, won tenders to operate Mona Cottage, Chaitows Restaurant and Pub, and The Vine Restaurant.

Both Khoza and her relative are co-directors of two other companies: Ocean Side Trading 52 and Spring Green Trading 87. Neither appear to have any experience in the tourism or hospitality industries.

Ocean Side Trading 52 was registered on the database of Bushbuckridge local municipality in 2009 but was never awarded any tenders.

Bushbuckridge residents said this week that Khoza had ran a village bottle store which went broke and closed down.

Her relative has not won a major tender before either and her company is listed as a public works’ Sakha Abakhi programme, an incubator initiative for emerging businesses.

Khoza declined to comment about her work experience and denied any political connections.

“Go to public works for details. I don’t know much except that I was appointed. As you know, there will always be allegations when a black person is [awarded a tender],” she said. Her relative could not be reached for comment.

Pilgrim’s Rest Business Forum head Marius Brummer said the business owners were relieved that no jobs were going to be lost.

“At least our workers can stay and that is positive for the whole community. We’d given our employees notice already,” he said.

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