‘Renting’ votes

2013-11-24 14:00

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Death-mall owner urged tenants to vote ANC in return for R500 rent cut

The company of Tongaat death-mall owner Jay Singh gave tenants of his low-cost housing projects a R500 monthly rent cut before the 2011 local government elections in a failed bid to get them to vote for the ANC.

The houses they lived in were built by Singh through a sweetheart deal with the eThekwini Municipality.

This week, ANC and city officials scrambled to distance themselves from Singh after the collapse of his Tongaat Mall. Zakithi Nxumalo (35) and another man, believed to be Zwelibanzi Masuku (51), died and 29 workers were injured when the roof collapsed.

The second body was pulled from the rubble yesterday.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Lieutenant Mandy Govender said Masuku’s family was at the morgue.

Singh has continued to receive tenders despite being convicted of bribing a city building inspector.

eThekwini City Manager S’bu Sithole and Mayor James Nxumalo were quick to distance the city from Singh, whose Gralio Construction was hammered by the Manase Report into corruption in the city.

Singh’s Remant Alton Transport was given the city’s bus service for R70?million and sold it back for R403?million after running it into the ground.

Documents in City Press’ possession may provide some insight into the relationship between the ANC and Singh, whose family’s companies have raked in a staggering R500?million in housing tenders from the metro.

A letter from housing management company Woodglaze Trading, which belongs to Singh’s ex-wife, Shireen Annamalay, was sent to residents of two of his Phoenix complexes?–?Tasvir Mansions in Rydalvale and Tashmera Gardens in Eastbury.

The letter, dated May 16 2011, two days before the election, confirms an offer to tenants of a R500 monthly rent deduction from August that year.

Although officially divorced, Singh and Annamalay still share a house and business premises.

The letter is signed by Pravashkumar “Pravash” Inderjeeth, the head of Woodglaze and Singh’s de facto deputy.

The other signatory is ANC PR councillor Sarojini Govender, the party’s failed candidate for the ward.

The letter also bears the ANC logo and is stamped “ANC Ward 49 Candidate Sarojini Govender”.

The letters were issued to tenants by Woodglaze and Govender in a desperate bid to stop the DA’s electoral gains in Phoenix. A similar offer was made to tenants of other buildings around Phoenix that were run by Singh.

Tenants said that before the 2011 elections, residents of all flats owned and administered by Woodglaze were told that their rentals would be reduced if they promised to vote for the ANC.

A tenant, who asked not to be named, said: “Then we started to question why the flats were in such a bad condition and why we were not getting our title deeds?...?We were told by Stanley Moonsamy [secretary of the ANC constituency office in Phoenix] to join the ANC ward committee and they would help us.

“Election time was coming up and they offered the people R500 a month less in rent. They wanted us to stop fighting them and vote for the ANC. We weren’t convinced, so they gave us the letter in writing. We still didn’t vote for the ANC, but they did give us the cut,” he said.

Tenants of other Woodglaze complexes confirmed receiving the rent cut and being approached to vote for the ANC by Woodglaze and Govender.

Govender said on Friday morning that she was involved in an attempted hijacking and was unable to comment.

Later that day, a woman who refused to identify herself but claimed to be Govender’s “representative’’ answered her phone and said she would comment later. But no comment was forthcoming.

An ANC activist, who asked not to be identified, said the plan to offer tenants a rent cut in return for votes was discussed by the party’s Phoenix leadership.

“There were a couple of discussions around how to do it. I wasn’t involved myself,” he said.

Singh has gone to ground since the mall collapse. Melanie Moodley, the publicist he hired in the wake of the collapse, failed to comment on his or Inderjeeth’s behalf. Moonsamy did not respond to calls.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Senzo Mkhize said the party was not aware of the rent-cut offer.?–?Additional reporting by Sipho Masondo

See a gallery of the rescue mission.

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