Housing developer ‘didn’t flee’

2008-12-08 00:00

Former KwaZulu-Natal housing developer Peter Pitcher, who was accused by Housing MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu of fleeing overseas with R22 million in taxpayers’ money and leaving houses half built, hotly denies any wrongdoing and has suggested he is being made a scapegoat.

Pitcher’s brother, local attorney Mark Pitcher, was mandated by his brother to respond to a Witness article published on November 7.

Mark Pitcher told The Witness it is possible his brother may institute legal action against the Housing Department over the “highly defamatory” statements. He said he was surprised the MEC was quoted as saying his brother had fled the country with more than R22 million and that he would “get away with it” because South Africa has no extradition treaty with New Zealand.

No official, including the police, ever contacted members of Pitcher’s family in Pietermaritzburg to inquire about his brother’s whereabouts. Nor was he ever criminally charged, to their knowledge, he said.

Inspector Joey Jeevan confirmed that the SAPS has no record of an official case having been opened against Pitcher at Mooi River — the station which would have jurisdiction to investigate the case.

Mark Pitcher said his brother emigrated to New Zealand in 2001 after a divorce and personal experience of crime. He had followed all proper legal channels to get there, including securing employment and getting police clearance.

“Some years later he was issued with New Zealand citizenship after the usual due diligence inquiry was undertaken by the New Zealand authorities. Hardly possible, I would venture to suggest, if he had committed the offences alleged,” he said.

“If anyone has absconded with R22 million of the department’s funds it was not Peter Pitcher. I would be very interested to know where the alleged missing money has gone and who has it,” he said.

Mark Pitcher said the first time his brother and their family became aware of the allegations by the MEC was from press reports in The Witness and Sunday Times in 2002. At that time he wrote to the department and asked for information and documentation relating to the Townview housing project in order to investigate the allegations, but to date nothing has been forthcoming.

The Witness has a copy of correspondence between him and the department. He also pointed out that by then the houses had been vandalised.

He said his brother told him the development contract for the Bruntville houses was a written agreement and strict conditions had to be met before payment was made by the housing board for each house on its completion. All professionals associated with the project were similarly paid.

The conditions were:

• that the house had to be complete;

• an independent consulting engineer had to certify it was complete and according to specification;

• the beneficiary had to sign acceptance of the handover of the completed house;

• the registration of the transfer of the site to the beneficiary had to have been effected and a conveyancer’s certificate to this effect had to be provided;

• the housing board’s building inspectorate had to certify that the house was complete and satisfactory.

“There were no exceptions. No payment was made to the developer unless and until such requirements were complied with,” said Mark Pitcher.

Peter Pitcher further maintains that the contract was terminated by “mutual consent” after the building contractors received threats of violence and death apparently arising from politics and wage disputes.

There were about 191 houses that still had to be built at that stage, but no payment was ever made in respect of the unbuilt houses.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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