Housingon shaky ground

2014-12-02 00:00

THE controversial R2 billion Vulindlela housing project in Msunduzi — already the subject of an investigation by Public ­Protector Thuli Madonsela — is courting more controversy.

The project is the brainchild of the ­section 21 company Vulindlela Development Association (VDA) that was formed by five amakhosi from Vulindlela.

VDA appointed Dezzo as its implementing agent. The project is meant to build 25 000 houses in the Vulindlela area.

Following the resignation of VDA’s former CEO Hloni Zondi, the VDA board appointed Senzo Mfayela to take over. Mfayela is also the CEO of Dezzo.

Sources close to the project said this was a conflict of interest as it meant the implementing agent now effectively manages its employers, the VDA.

Dezzo and the Department of Human Settlements denied there was conflict of interest.

However, a source who declined to be named said: “This decision is wrong. It means that Mfayela is running these two companies and there is no accountability.”

Another source who has been vocal in his questioning of the project said the arrangement was a clear conflict of interest.

“That [Dezzo manages VDA] does not surprise me … I heard that Hloni had resigned to become a full-time student.”

The source said the project was struggling and province had intervened twice.

“The project is in its fourth year and they are still at 7 000 houses. They were ­supposed to have done 5 000 houses per year. If it was any other contractor doing this, their contract would have been ­cancelled for poor performance.”

Zondi confirmed that he has left the project and directed all queries to the ­person in charge, Mfayela. He said he was not working at the moment and had ­currently gone back to studying. He is ­currently in Limpopo and would be back in Pietermaritzburg next year.

Inkosi Nsikayezwe Zondi, the ­chairperson of VDA, said the members had asked for Mfayela to head the project and they had not entertained the idea of hiring a replacement for Zondi.

He said they were pleased with the progress of the work being done.

Thembi Khuzwayo of VDA said Mfayela was approached by the VDA board to lead the project. She said the appointment did not pose a risk of conflict of interest.

She said Mfayela had been involved from the project’s inception and his appointment had resulted in consolidated leadership and acceleration of the project.

Spokesperson for the Department of Human Settlement Mbulelo Baloyi said the role of Mfayela poses no conflict “in as far as we are concerned”. He also denied that the project was behind schedule.

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