Is this worth R80m?

2016-10-23 06:00
Kids playing outside the palace.

Kids playing outside the palace.

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The Bapo Ba Mogale royal palace is three times over budget. And the swimming pool, tennis court and guesthouse have not even been built yet

A long driveway, flanked by high walls, leads from an imposing gate to a mansion, which sits at the foot of the majestic Magaliesberg range outside Majakaneng village near Brits.

A life-sized bronze elephant sculpture that cost R5 million dominates the entrance hall inside the massive Bapo Ba Mogale royal palace.

The sculpture is one of the luxury features of a contentious R80 million project under investigation by the Public Protector’s office.

Before she ended her term, former public protector Thuli Madonsela told the Bapo community that at least R2.8 million was spent on décor alone at the palace.

She told the community that the palace, which was planned to be built with a budget of R20 million, ended up costing R80 million, saying her team of investigators would visit the palace to dig for answers.

A council member of the platinum-rich Bapo Ba Mogale tribal administration in the North West, Abbey Mafate, revealed to City Press that the initial R20 million budget for the project had been depleted at foundation level.

A quantity surveyor and a forensic expert have since been appointed to do some brick counting at the palace to determine and compare the possible millions spent against the actual structure.

Mafate said the community was expecting the Public Protector’s findings to reveal a trail of how money intended for the project disappeared, forcing the budget to balloon to R80 million over the years.

“Except for the house being huge with about 10 bedrooms, there is really nothing special about it that can suggest R80 million was spent there.

“We started asking questions when those in charge came back to ask for more money ... It was like we were building a Parliament,” he said.

“The project was delayed many times and progress was very slow. Chief [Bob Mogale] has moved into the house, but – after the supposed R80 million was spend – many features such as the swimming pool, tennis court and guesthouse have not even been built.

You have to ask yourself, what did they do with all those millions? All these features were included in the initial budget for the project.”

Pictures on social media include those posted by Chief Mogale’s daughter, Princess Itumeleng Mogale, showing a mansion with sprawling lawns and paved driveways, but with not much effort shown on landscaping.

The inside shows glossy tiles almost everywhere. Among other pictures is a huge bedroom with stylish designer settees and couches, as well as wall-to-wall wardrobes.

The princess can be seen in other pictures relaxing in what looks like a living area with a huge flat-screen TV. She is also seen standing at the bar preparing cocktails as well, as in the kitchen.

A number of paintings and ornaments can be seen in social-media pictures, but according to Mafate, those could not have cost R2.8 million.

Madonsela further revealed that R68 million had been spent on project consultants alone.

Three years ago, she launched a probe into the missing millions of Bapo Ba Mogale.

These were royalties paid by mining companies into the so-called D-account – an account controlled by the North West government in which mining companies have been depositing royalties paid to communities on whose soil they were mining.

North West government spokesperson Brian Setswambung confirmed the D-account was yet to be audited.

The North West portfolio committee on public accounts, Scopa, has also tried to probe the transactions from as far back as 2013 without success.

Setswambung said the provincial government was still “working on an auditing framework for traditional councils that will ensure that audits are embarked upon that would afford government the necessary legislative authority to unravel any misuse of funds and take corrective action, which includes bringing culprits to book”.

Madonsela asked the community to expect a report in December or January.

Read more on:    thuli madonsela

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