Row over beauty queen’s new home

2015-01-18 17:00

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Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza’s philanthropic efforts have come under attack after his foundation donated a house to a beauty queen and her family.

Residents of Tekwane South, outside Mbombela, are not impressed by the gesture, partly because they claim the land had been earmarked for a public park.

The premier’s newly established DD Mabuza Foundation handed over the three-bedroom house, worth about R500 000, to Miss Mpumalanga 2014 Natasha dos Santos and her family on Tuesday.

Residents complain that the Dos Santos family had jumped a long queue of people waiting to buy stands or receive RDP houses from the Mbombela city council.

The council last allocated land for residential purposes in the township about nine years ago. A moratorium had been placed on the entire Mbombela municipal area, pending a land audit.

A Mbombela municipal official and a councillor confirmed that stands had not been allocated in Tekwane South since the 2005/06 financial year.

During the handover, Mabuza said Dos Santos’ story had “touched” him.

The beauty queen’s family had lived in a shack situated in a rugged, hilly area and she had been unable to find a place to park the car she won as a prize when she was crowned Miss Mpumalanga last April.

A resident said: “This is a good story to tell. People from Tekwane South want stands to build houses, but they don’t get them. Then a park for their kids to play is taken away by the powers that be and a house for Miss Mpumalanga has been built.”

Tekwane South ward councillor Joseph Mashaba said residents thought the land had been demarcated for a park because he had placed children’s recreational facilities there to deter land invaders.

“There’s a moratorium on the allocation and selling of stands,” Mashaba said.

“But, if there is an emergency, we deal with the case on its merits. The foundation wanted to donate a house and I found a stand. Miss Mpumalanga’s family is not the first one to benefit like this – there are many other people in the same situation. I had to assist because the money (from the foundation) would have been used elsewhere,” he added.

Mabuza has built more than 200 houses, worth a total of about R80 million, since he started asking businesses to fund his initiative about three years ago.

Since launching the foundation last year,. it has received donations from many businesspeople, including Robert Gumede.

Mabuza’s spokesperson Zibonele Mncwango said the premier was not aware of the furore over the house.

“The premier felt the need to assist the family because of their background and the fact that (Dos Santos) has been working closely with the provincial government since being crowned Miss Mpumalanga,” Mncwango said.

Meanwhile, Mpumalanga police said four gun-toting criminals had broken into the house around 2am on Wednesday and made off with a fridge, a two-plate stove and Dos Santos’ clothes.

She was not there when the robbery happened, but three of her relatives were in the house. Police said the three were ordered at gunpoint to lie down.

Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said the incident should not, however, be linked to the unhappiness in the community.

“We are still investigating. Our crime intelligence unit is on the case. It’s true that there have been complaints, but our focus is on solving the crime. There was a similar incident in Tekwane South on the same morning. We’re not sure if it involved the same people,” Mohlala said.

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