Zondo frustrated by evidence of failed Free State projects

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond 'Ray' Zondo greets the commission before hearing testimony from Trevor Manuel and Siphiwe Nyanda, 28 February 2019. Picture: Karen Sandison / African News Agency (ANA)

The chairperson says it is very worrying that the government meant to benefit the people ends up in the pockets of a select few.

The chairperson of the commission of inquiry into state capture, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has expressed his frustration which arises from the evidence he has heard on failed government projects in the Free State.

Following the testimony of Mphikeleli Kaizer Maxatshwa, the former chief director at a local government branch of the department of local government and housing in the Free State Province, on the R1-billion housing project, Zondo expressed his concerns over the failed project.

Zondo said it was quite concerning that a lot of money that had been set aside for the project seems to have ended up in the hands of various material suppliers and “maybe contractors”, with more than R500 million paid out by the provincial department of human settlements during the 2010/2011 financial year, yet no houses were built.

“The money should have benefitted ordinary people, they should have gotten houses,” Zondo said, adding that government’s role is to ensure that people get the services they need.

“It’s not just this matter where I’m hearing this kind of evidence,” he added, citing evidence he heard recently on the asbestos project from the same provincial department.

Zondo recalled evidence he has heard on the asbestos project, which includes that a joint venture was awarded a R250-million contract to remove asbestos from houses in the province, work which could have been done at R21 million.

Furthermore, he said based on evidence he has heard, the joint venture did little to no work but “just pocketed the money”, with the third subcontractor in the contract doing the work that was done, which was counting the houses that needed to have asbestos removed.

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“But to make it worse they was no removal of asbestos from the houses,” Zondo said.

He also recalled evidence he has heard on the Vrede Dairy Farm or the Estina project which was meant to benefit black farmers but “there, too, the people who were supposed to be beneficiaries” got nothing “and yet millions and millions of rands were paid out by the government, the Free State government”, which, he said according to evidence, ended up in the hands of other people.

“It’s very concerning,” Zondo said.

He said, however, that this does not “necessarily mean the Free State government was the worst” because the commission has not heard evidence from other provinces, a process which he said would require years for it to be done.

He was of the view that similar cases could be found in other provinces, where government money for projects meant to benefit the people ends up in the pockets of a select few.

“It’s very worrying,” Zondo said, adding that such evidence “troubles me a lot”.

“It’s most frustrating to hear what I hear in this commission,” Zondo said, concluding that there was no indication that this trend was “slowing down”, with some people still wanting to get their “fair share”.

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