Row over housing project

2020-01-14 15:02
City Hallâ??s Clock tower keeps ticking. The Msunduzi municipality has managed to keep ahead of the problem the pigeons keep dropping. Photo. Jonathan Burton8BIM

City Hallâ??s Clock tower keeps ticking. The Msunduzi municipality has managed to keep ahead of the problem the pigeons keep dropping. Photo. Jonathan Burton8BIM (file)

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A tense stand-off between some Copesville residents and their ward councillor, Spha Madlala, over promises of houses threatened to get out of hand on Monday.

Aggrieved residents, led by whistle-blower Thabiso Zulu, stormed the construction site where more than 1 000 houses are going to be built in the area to demand answers.

This followed the disruption of a meeting on Sunday, called by Madlala to introduce the contractor.

Speaking to The Witness, Zulu said residents were demanding a criminal probe into the housing project, which was launched in 2016.

When Zulu made an official complaint to the Human Settlements Department last May regarding the project, the department said it had handed over the matter to the Risk Management Directorate’s Anti-Fraud and Corruption Investigative Unit.

However, Zulu said on Monday that no further action had been taken since.

“That matter has been trampled underfoot. There is still no case number because the matter was never referred to the authorities as promised.”

He alleged that four years down the line, there is still no explanation as to why only 47 houses were built instead of the promised 48.

“We held a meeting with Human Settlements MEC on October 8 and among the resolutions was that the MEC would visit Copesville in November to address the issues surrounding the 48 houses and the new housing project.

“She [MEC] promised that the new project would not begin before these issues are addressed,” said Zulu.

He alleged that the residents were also unhappy with the existing steering committee, which was co-opted in 2014.

“That steering committee is non-existent, and the majority of the members have either died or relocated.”

Zulu claimed that while 18 community members have already been hired to work on the new project, the opportunity was not open to everyone but “only a fraction of friends who were told about this employment opportunity”.

“The entire project is just not transparent,” he added.

Madlala denied any involvement in the 2016 project, saying he had inherited the “problematic project” from the previous councillor, who has since died.

“This whole project was done transparently and conducted by a municipal-appointed official. The problem I inherited was that the previous councillor had a separate list of beneficiaries that contradicted the source document,” he said.

Madlala said the 48 houses were built and left standing, and when he was sworn in as a councillor, the houses had already been vandalised by protesters.

“I requested a report on how the project came about. That was my only involvement,” he said.

He accused Zulu of fabricating lies against him in a political struggle to take over as the area’s councillor.

“I have had no dealings with this project and I will maintain my innocence. I have given the department my side of the story and I reject the allegations that my family and friends benefited from the project,” Madlala said.

He said there will more job opportunities.

Human Settlements spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi said the department had referred the corruption allegations to Msunduzi Municipality.

“We handed the recommendations to Msunduzi and council was supposed to take a resolution,” he said.

Msunduzi Municipality did not respond to a media query sent by The Witness on Monday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  housing project
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