‘Ghost project that already cost R151 million must be stopped’ – DA

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Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane addressing reporters outside the home of deceased Emalahleni Local Municipality mayor, Linah Malatjie.
Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane addressing reporters outside the home of deceased Emalahleni Local Municipality mayor, Linah Malatjie.
Balise Mabona


About a decade later, the Mpumalanga department of culture, sport and recreation is still not sure where it will get funding for the construction of a cultural hub for which it has already spent R151 million.

Recently, the department reported to the legislature that R3.4 million more had been spent on a transactional advisor, who was appointed to obtain approval for the project from National Treasury because the private sector had to be involved.

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The department’s spokesperson, Sibongile Nkosi, said the cost of the project was too high to be accommodated in the provincial fiscus, hence, the reason to appoint a transactional advisor to facilitate a public-private partnership.

The cultural hub was one of the big projects that were conceptualised when Deputy President David Mabuza was premier of Mpumalanga.

Mpumalanga DA leader Jane Sithole has written to Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane, asking her to stop further expenditure on this project after conducting an oversight visit on-site and only found a vacant piece of land with no construction work.

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Sithole has also asked the Special Investigating Unit to investigate the project.

The department bought 20.9 hectares of land in White River to build the hub that was meant to train aspiring film makers, television producers, musicians and visual artists, among others.

Sithole said: 

The report by the portfolio committee on education, culture, sport and recreation stated categorically that the cultural hub project was not cost-effective or efficient. Honourable premier, all funding for this ghost project must be stopped. The provincial fiscus cannot afford to continuously be drained by a non-existent ghost project under your watch.

Nkosi said that the R151 million spend so far covered land acquisition, project management, concept designs, architectural services, civic and civil engineering services, mechanical and electric engineering services, quantity surveyors, transaction advisory, boreholes, geohydrology and the master plan.

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“The Mpumalanga government conceptualised the construction of a cultural hub that would house the creative industry in its totality. The pre-construction work was completed and bids were received from bidders and the budget was far too high for the project to be accommodated in the provincial fiscus. Hence, the public-private partnership was the next option,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the public-private partnership is only possible through the assistance of the transactional advisor. One of the key mandates of the transactional advisor was the delivery of the bankable feasibility study to the National Treasury to obtain approval for the project to proceed and be ascertained by possible funders. The feasibility study is a mammoth task that needs research and benchmarking.”

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Nkosi said that a suitable funder would be found once Treasury approved the project. The overall budget, she said, would be known once investors submitted their proposals.

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