The suspension comes after human settlement MEC, Basikop Makamu and his principal, Limpopo Premier Chupu Stan Mathabatha were widely criticised for awarding shacks to the houseless in Talana Hostel, a stone’s throw away from Tzaneen’s Central Business District (CBD) in the Miopani region last month.
The 44-shack project, of which each house cost R64,000, was handed over to beneficiaries on 31 July.
The shacks were made of corrugated iron sheets and cost the department R2.4 million. The dilapidated hostel was occupied by poor people from different areas such as Tickyline, Relela, Ga-Motupa, Pjapjamela, Kheopeni, Khethobamotheka, Khetoni Leretjeni, Lephepane, Dan and Ga-Mphakane.
The department said the primary objective of the project was to decongest residents in an effort to observe social distancing to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 during the peak of the pandemic. But the project was marred by controversy after it was discovered that the shacks had no water supply, no ablution facilities and no sewerage infrastructure that goes with the houses.
“Yes, we have suspended the project in an endeavour to give space for the investigations to take place. We are currently investigating several allegations levelled on the project. Upon the conclusion of the investigations, we will resume with the project, taking in consideration aspects raised so that it could stand the test of time,” said MEC Makamu on Sunday.
Last week, Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu also entered the fray and said she was not satisfied with the reports the project was gathering in the province.
The minister said she was harbouring a view that Mathabatha should not have been invited to hand over the Temporary Residential Unit project to the needy without the provincial team first ensuring that the project was adequate.
She said quality checks must always be done during and after projects were undertaken to ensure they met acceptable standards in line with the housing Code. The minister said in a statement that she was also eagerly awaiting the outcome of the review of the Talana project to determine whether it was compliant with the building industry standards.
The review is being done by the National Home Builders Registration Council, an agency of the department that oversees quality assurance of all human settlements projects.
This report is expected to be presented to the minister within 14 days. The department has confirmed that the program in Limpopo is part of a long-standing Human Settlements program of Informal Settlements Upgrading that was accelerated as part of efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19.
“Once the review is done, I will brief the Cabinet on the outcome, as well as inform the people of South Africa as our main beneficiaries who we are here to serve. I do not wish to be associated with unbecoming conduct or have my name mentioned alongside suspicions of corruption,” said Sisulu.
But on Sunday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said it was not surprised that Makamu suspended the construction of further shacks at Extension 10, Burgersfort in the Tubatse municipality.
“We are, however, seriously questioning the motives behind this move since 51 of the 152 units in Extension 10 have already been constructed,” said DA provincial leader, Jacques Smalle.
“True to form, all government stakeholders are now trying to save face and to escape accountability by either denying or minimising their involvement in the project which, caused serious embarrassment to the ruling party.
“The MEC cannot suspend the project because he now has taken issue with the quality of the units his department signed for. The procurement processes were flawed and clearly scrutiny of the product procured was rushed. Moreover, the department’s business plan was faulty from its inception as it clearly made no provision for adequate sanitation and running water.
“The DA is concerned that the MEC’s decision to suspend the project will place him in breach of contract which could lead to penalties or even litigation, which will further increase the costs for this project. The DA further cautioned Makamu to avoid fruitless and wasteful expenditure and to allow the project for temporary housing to continue,” said Smalle.
Makamu said the project was billed to continue, taking care of all precautionary measures, pending the outcome of the investigations into allegations levelled against the project.
Makamu also advised the DA to relax as he said there would be no litigations coming forth as all was been taken care of.