Broken toilet fuels furious spat

2018-03-25 06:00
Provident House in Mahikeng, owned by a company belonging to North West businessman Phatudi Maponya. PHOTO: Tebogo Letsie

Provident House in Mahikeng, owned by a company belonging to North West businessman Phatudi Maponya. PHOTO: Tebogo Letsie

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It’s a furious spat over a malfunctioning toilet and incomplete renovations between a North West MEC and a local property mogul known to be close to Premier Supra Mahumapelo.

Now the North West provincial legislature members and social development MEC Hoffman Galeng are fuming at how buildings they believe were owned by the state were sold, only to be rented back to the provincial government.

Three buildings built in Mahikeng by the erstwhile Bophuthatswana government were sold to businessman Phatudi Maponya at a combined price of R150m, according to records from the deeds office.

But Maponya, who also chairs the board of the province’s North West Transport Investment company, denies the buildings in question were bought from or ever owned by the government as per deeds records. Both Maponya and Mahumapelo have denied to have any relations. The two office blocks were rented back to North West government departments.

The biggest noise is being made about Provident House, which Maponya confirms he bought from the Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF) through the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) after it placed an advert in a Sunday newspaper “inviting potential buyers for the property and we submitted our bid”.

The building is now at the centre of a spat between Maponya and Galeng who says his department paid him rent of R1.2m a month.

Deeds records show that Provident House belonged to the pension fund which sold it to Maponya’s company, Kyostyle, for R42m in 2010.

Social development employees have been on a now-interdicted strike and a go-slow for more than two months, refusing to work in the building.

Galeng told the portfolio committee on social development and health just over a week ago that he was left to use a “malfunctioning” toilet and that his own office was in such a state he couldn’t use it.

“When we entered the building in April last year, Maponya was to renovate it to conditions that would be conducive to workers. Now we’re kneeling for him to renovate the building,” Galeng said, “The richest are benefiting at our expense ... I don’t have an office for eight months and I’m squatting in the head of department’s office.”

But Maponya said: “The MEC requested us to renovate his office. We could not renovate his office... He voluntarily moved out of the office to enable us to effect the necessary change and renovations. He’s talking nonsense when he says he’s ‘squatting’.”

Galeng said he has been waiting for his office to be renovated since August last year when he assumed the position and that Maponya “personally” promised him in February that his office would be ready “soon”.

But he’s still waiting and complained that he had been using a toilet that required him to pull up the flushing knob to avoid the water flowing nonstop.

Maponya said Galeng’s office was “completed and he wants gold-plated taps, I’m not going to do it”. “If you visited the newly renovated offices, you would realise that he is trying to deviate the real issues around him to us,” he said. However Galeng denied this.

Maponya has previously told City Press that he has spent R15m renovating the building Galeng and staff are complaining about and that work was continuing. But Galeng said this week there was “nothing to show for it”. He also denied Galeng was forced to use a leaky toilet.

“Maintaining our buildings is our core function and we cannot ignore it. We have bought two new lifts and engineers are installing them ... they had to shut down one and strip it out and, as a result, it cannot function until it has been properly installed,” Maponya said

When City Press visited Galeng’s office this week, it had been freshly painted with new wall-to-wall carpets laid, and his bathroom and toilet refurbished and shower door yet to be installed. The toilet was working properly when flushed. Four urinals in one of the male toilets were covered with boxes and could not be used. They were also leaking.

Galeng told the portfolio committee that it was “worrying that we’re renting out own buildings”. Portfolio committee member Boitumelo Moiloa agreed, saying it couldn’t be right that “we dispose of government property and we don’t have reports on when it was disposed of and why as well as for how much did we sell it”.

Another committee member, Madoda Sambatha, said there was a “high level of collusion on buildings for office space in Mahikeng”, he said.

Maponya owns another office block, the Tirelo Building, which is shared by three other government departments. It was transferred from the Bophuthatswana government employee pension fund to the GEPF in 2008 and sold to Maponya’s Electrox Properties in January 2010 for R20m. He confirmed he bought the Tirelo Building from the GEPF, which he said appointed the PIC as its agent in the sale.

“The sale took place more than eight years ago and at the time we bought this property it was not owned by the North West provincial government or national government as alleged. The office block was sold at book value,” he said.

But another former Bophuthatswana government-built building that has angered the province this week is the town’s Mega City mall, which Maponya also owns and renovated and now leases to national government departments. Deeds office records show that the original owner of the building was the Bophuthatswana employee pension fund and later transferred to GEPF.

Thereafter, it was transferred to the Community Property Company for which Maponya’s Kyostyle bought it in April 2008 for R88m.

Maponya said he spent R200m renovating the mall which was 60% empty and since then 500 permanent jobs have been created. “There was nothing unlawful, irregular or corrupt about the sale of [Mega City].”

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