Housing tender storm grows

2011-07-14 00:00

FORMER Msunduzi mayor Hloni Zondi has emerged from obscurity after being head-hunted to become project director of the controversial R2,05 billion Vulindlela housing project in upper Edendale.

The scheme involves building 25 000 houses — 5 000 units a year over five years in all nine wards of Vulindlela.

Zondi, who went from mayor to speaker at the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, was introduced to the media in the first press briefing on the project at the Redlands Hotel yesterday.

He faces his first major obstacle today — a protest march by disgruntled residents angry at the lack of consultation on the project. The residents, who met at the weekend, have formed a task team to investigate a number of complaints.

They want to know whether the political connections of directors of one of the companies gave them an unfair advantage.

They want to know how tenders, jobs and sub-contracts for the project are being awarded, how suppliers are being chosen and what prices are paid for raw materials, and how the scheme is being administered and monitored.

The marchers plan to hand over a memorandum of their demands to the head of the KZN Human Settlements Department, Gabi Gumbi-Maiselela.

If they are not satisfied, they say, they plan to take their complaints to the Public Protector.

The Vulindlela housing project has also attracted criticism from opposition parties and NGOs

Cameron Brisbane of the Built Environment Support Group (BESG) described the reasons for the residents’ concern.

He said the project is the commitment of a massive amount of state funds — over R2 billion — to one housing project and to one private developer.

Brisbane said this has never been done before in the history of the national housing subsidy scheme and that it was effected without a due tender process.

Ironically, while residents plan to march over a lack of information, the project was launched supposedly on the basis of community involvement and a recently introduced policy in the Department of Human Settlements known as the “enhanced people’s housing process” (EPHP).

The EPHP policy allows for housing beneficiaries to form an association to drive their own development. This then means that the department does not have to put out tenders for outside developers.

The residents complain that they have no representation on the Vulindlela Development Association (VDA), the section 21 company driving the development. The VDA directors are five amakhosi from the area, an induna and an advocate.

Dezzo Development Holdings director Anton Vorster said a dedicated team headed by Thembi Khuzwayo has been working full-time to ensure community involvement.

Zondi said he is aware that people went to the Human Settlements department to raise a number of issues.

“As soon as we need to intervene, we will intervene. We are committed to interact with the community and a project of this size will have its challenges,” he said.

Dezzo Development Holdings held its first press briefing on the project yesterday.

Vorster provided some answers.

• On the political connections of the directors of his company, Vorster said it was no secret that politicians are shareholders of Dezzo as is stated on the company’s website. They include Sipho Gcabashe, a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature and former ANC provincial secretary, former Inkatha Freedom Party MP Sipho Mfayela and former ANC MP Mpho Scott.

• Who got the project going — the amakhosi or Dezzo?

Vorster said Dezzo has been working in the Edendale area since 1996.

“We are known on the ground and are relatively successful. We analysed Vulindlela as a place for potential development and started interacting with the leadership. Then the tender came out and we applied.”

Vorster said that at the same time the Amakhosi were speaking to the Human Settlements Department about running the project on their own under the EPHP scheme. Dezzo helped them with their business plan. The amakhosi were given the go-ahead to become the developers and the tender was withdrawn. They formed the Vulindela Development Association and appointed Dezzo as the technical team to run the project. VDA and Dezzo in turn head-hunted Zondi as the project director.

• How was it decided that 25 000 houses should be built?

Vorster said this figure was reached through Dezzo’s research within the community. He said Msunduzi Municipality arrived at the same figure independently and from its own information about the community . He agreed that an initial integrated development plan proposed that 2 000 houses built. He pointed to a letterdated June 2, 2010, in which acting municipal manager Thokozani Maseko wrote that 25 000 units were required in the entire Vulindlela area

• Funding for the project. It was administered by Nurcha, a government agency that handles funding administration for infrastructure and housing. An amount of R99 million has been paid to Nurcha so far and R75 million has been paid to the VDA. So far this money had been used to buy vehicles, machinery and tools.

In each ward five community contractors will be used and jobs for 1 530 people will be created in the five-year period. Show houses have been built, but construction on a larger scale is about to commence.

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