Edendale’s R9 mln ruin

2011-11-28 00:00

A R9 MILLION state-of-the-art building in Edendale, which has never been used, stands vandalised with weeds invading its interior, testimony to the effects of infighting and maladministration in the Msunduzi Municipality.

The Moses Mabhida Multi-Purpose Centre, which has been left abandoned for the past two years, has been stripped of its doors, its air-conditioning units have been ripped out and parts of the ceiling and tiles have been stolen.

The double-storey red brick building, part of a project to uplift the previously disadvantaged Greater Edendale area, stands decaying and neglected and smothered in weeds.

The expensive building was supposed to have been a bustling hub used as offices for the Greater Edendale Development Initiative and a multi-purpose centre bringing services such as the Health Department and Home Affairs offices closer to the community. Instead it is derelict and an eyesore as its interior has been plundered by vandals and thieves.

The building is at the centre of a legal dispute, with the municipality going after the contractors for abandoning the site.

Contractor Mondli Mpofu said the municipality is wasting its money going after him.

He said the final stages of the project was to have been completed by the municipality. For over a year he had paid a private security company out of his own pocket to guard the building while waiting for the finishing touches to be done. As an emerging contractor he could not sustain this expense.

Mpofu said he informed the municipality’s project management team that he was withdrawing the security guards. They did not bother to post security, resulting in the large-scale vandalism.

Long-term municipal staff members said the finishing touches could not be done because the municipality is running out of money. Council insiders said the project was doomed from the start because of infighting in the municipality.

It was first proposed in 2005 under former Mayor Hloni Zondi.

Tenders were put out and work was to start in 2006. However, after the local government elections held that year, Zondi and his successor, Zanele Hlatshwayo, were involved in a bitter contest for the mayorship. When Hlatshwayo became Msunduzi’s first citizen, she allegedly paid scant attention to projects started under Zondi’s watch, concentrating her attention on her own projects. The Moses Mabhida centre then faced another hurdle.

After going through the tender process, two emerging contractors were chosen to carry out the construction — M Construction and Lungi Construction.

However, some time after the project started, Lungi allegedly found it could not do the job and pulled out. Rather than wasting time going through another tender process, the municipality undertook to help M Construction.

Mpofu said that did not happen and the firm was left largely on its own to do the work.

The finishing touches were supposed to have been carried out by the municipality, he added.

Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma disputes this version, saying that work continued with very little progress and structural engineering problems were identified.

“The contractor evacuated the site of his own accord and our legal division is looking at a breach of contract. The contract has been terminated and further legal deliberations are happening to allow the municipality to hire another contractor,” said Zuma.

He said that between R3 million and R5 million is needed to finish the work and that municipal security guards have been posted.

For Mpofu, this is a case of too little too late when the building has already been vandalised.

The question remains why the municipality has not bothered to salvage the situation in the past three years.

Democratic Alliance provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu, who was a councillor during the awarding of the tender, said his party will ask the Public Protector to investigate.

“The growing number of uncompleted projects raise eyebrows about where the money is.

“There was also a plan to build a Vulindlela multi-purpose centre,” said Mchunu.

mlondi.radebe@witness.co.za

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