TWO projects singled out by Local Government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane when he finally made public the Kabuso report yesterday are laid bare in secret letters to political bigwigs and confidential special investigations attached in the report’s annexures.
Addressing the media, Qoboshiyane singled out the wasteful expenditure – as mentioned by Kabuso investigators – incurred by the municipality from renting vast tracts of property magnate Yusuf Jeeva’s Kwantu Towers block next to City Hall, while much cheaper property was available nearby.
Qoboshiyane also made mention of the Red Location mausoleums – a project driven by then mayor Nceba Faku – the “intention and purpose [of which] was never served”, while the incomplete project constituted “fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.
Yusuf Jeeva: In an interesting twist, investigators found that the municipality tried to purchase the Kwantu Towers block in 2001 – Jeeva had yet to purchase it – from then owners Tresso Trading 119. But all the offers, from R4-million to R7-million, were refused by Tresso, which less than two years later sold the building to Jeeva for a mere R2.5-million.
“Rental charges [of Kwantu Towers] are excessive when compared to available space at Algoa House,” the report states.
Jeeva’s close ties with senior politicians, like Faku, are laid bare in a letter Jeeva wrote to Faku in 2009 when he asked that the ANC help with a dispute between his property company, Africorp, and the municipality.
The municipality was suing Africorp for rates arrears of more than R16-million.
“We therefore request that you take up this matter to stop the court proceedings and instead to enter into good faith discussions with Africorp with the intention of resolving this matter amicably,” Jeeva asked of Faku.
But the request, which made its way to then municipal manager Graham Richards, only served to anger Richards. In a sharp-tongued letter to then mayor Nondumiso Maphazi, Richards bemoaned Jeeva’s “very successful ruse to avoid making payment of a large sum of money for a period of over three years”.
Incidentally, Richards’s response came just weeks before he was forced to take special leave while the municipality investigated allegations of mismanagement in a bid to oust him – allegations it would later be forced to drop.
Richards wrote: “I was contacted by the [ANC] chief whip, who suggested that this is a matter which is capable of settlement.
“I am in fact surprised to see that Mr Jeeva is contending that his family [supports] the ANC. His family has a long history of supporting the apartheid government … the basis for their fortune arose from the exploitation of land transactions associated with forced removals.”
Red Location mausoleums: Also in the report’s annexures is a “private and confidential” special investigation by the municipality into the “allegations about irregularities relating to the mausoleums at the Red Location Museum”, brought to light by late councillor Terry Herbst.
Its date, July 29 2009, is the day Richards started his special leave while allegations of mismanagement against him were probed. According to the document, it was previous municipal manager Mzimasi Mangcotywa who fell out with Faku – then mayor – about building the mausoleums, first brought up in October 2004.
In November 2005, Mangcotywa asked police to investigate Faku for fraud after Faku’s apparently unilateral authorisation of the R1.4- million payment from the mayor’s office in mid-2005. Mangcotywa argued that Faku’s appointment of a contractor flouted municipal supply chain policy, although the National Prosecuting Authority did not institute criminal proceedings.
While the report calls Faku’s meddling in the project “debatable”, it recommends that “the amount of R1.4-million of wasteful and or fruitless expenditure be recouped from the office-bearer who authorised the project of constructing the new memorial space”.
It also stated that acting municipal manager Peter Martin signed off on the funds. Mangcotywa would not do so.