The project to preserve and restore the house that late struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was banished to in Brandfort in the Free State has been assigned to new contractors, the Department of Arts and Culture said.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the department attempted to dispel rumours that nothing had been done to restore the house and to turn it into a museum as promised.
Spokesperson Asanda Magaqa said the department had consistently given the house due attention and priority, which included personal engagements with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in the months before she died.
There have also been ongoing discussions with the family and the Winnie Mandela Foundation.
She said Risimati Consulting Engineers had entered into an agreement with the department on March 13 and that the last consultation meeting between the department and Risimati took place on April 7.
Madikizela-Mandela was banished to the house by the apartheid regime between 1977 and 1986.
Money was allocated to the Free State government to restore the house as a museum, but years later it still stands derelict.
The house has been a focal point since Madikizela-Mandela's death on April 2.
Former Free State premier Ace Magashule, who is now the ANC's secretary general, denied any wrongdoing when he spoke to journalists last week. He reaffirmed that the museum would be built.
"I'm not personally ashamed because we have been in contact since 2007. The family knows there's no government money that's been lost," he said.
Magaqa on Wednesday said the department became involved with the project to preserve the stalwart's legacy and the "Winne Madikizela-Mandela House Project" in 2012. A budget of R3m was allocated for the project.
In a report by City Press in June last year, the initial contract holders Independent Development Trust (IDT) told the publication that the department initially allocated R3m to the project, of which R1 858 195.71 was transferred to them as an implementing agent to oversee the project.
They appointed a contractor for R2.5m in November 2013, but terminated the contract one year later, City Press reported at the time.
By then, the IDT had spent R593 622 on consultancy fees, including one payment of R117 543, "mainly for preliminaries and general site establishment and earthworks," IDT spokesperson Lesego Mashigo told the publication at the time.
'Value for money'
He said that the scope of work was later reduced, bringing the project down to R1.36m.
Other features such as the youth centre were scrapped.
"The IDT was awaiting approval from the department to proceed with the appointment of a [second] contractor for the implementation of the reduced scope of work when its agreement was terminated on November 9, 2016," Mashigo said.
He explained that a process of ceding all the documentation, assets and liabilities to the department was under way and that the remaining amount of R1 264 573.42 remained in the department's trust account.
On Wednesday, Magaqa said internal report findings had indicated that the department had not received "value for money" and it initiated a process to look for a new contractor to continue with the work.
The new contractors would restore the house and bombed clinic and convert them to interpretative spaces. They would also build a multi-purpose centre with Wi-Fi facilities and parking space, she said.
In the interim, Magaqa said the department had secured the site, with the assistance of its provincial department.
"As a result, the site continues to be under 24-hour surveillance in order to ensure that this prized historical site and important legacy project is under guard and safe from vandalism or being caused to deteriorate until the new contractors are on site."
Magaqa said the department was looking forward to getting Madikizela-Mandela's input on the plans presented by the new contractors at the meeting on April 7 - four days after her death.
"In spite of this, the department is forging ahead with plans to ensure that this project is finalised in order that South Africans [are] able to benefit for many generations from the preserving of her legacy and specifically, the historically significant 'House Number 802' in Brandfort where Madikizela-Mandela was banished [to] on Monday, 16 May 1977."
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