The Select Committee on Recreation and Education met with the Department of Arts and Culture, Lejweleputswa District Municipality and the Masilonyana Local Municipality to obtain an update on the long outstanding project to convert Winnie Madikizela Mandela’s Brandfort house into a museum.
The Committee was unhappy with the lack of attendance by the relevant political figures. Members debated whether the meeting should go ahead in the light of the absence of the Minister, the Deputy Minister and the Free State MEC. Because of the strain put on municipal budgets for officials to attend the meeting, it was determined that the meeting would go ahead, and the Director General of the national Department of Arts and Culture as well as the Municipalities would make presentations.
The Chairperson noted that the previous meeting had discussed the perceived corruption in the project and the money that could not be accounted for. That investigation would be referred to SCOPA and the parliamentary legal service would have to advise
The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) had entered into a tripartite Memorandum of Agreement with the Free State Provincial Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and Independent Development Trust in July 2012 for the Independent Development Trust to develop plans for the renovation and conversion of the Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela house in Brandfort into an Interpretive Centre. R3 000 000 had been made available for the implementation of the project. A number of challenges had arisen, including non-payment of the contractor and poor project management, and work had not progressed. However, the Director-General stated that the project was back on track and that the Department of Arts and Culture was taking responsibility for the renovations. The Department had concluded a procurement process to appoint a new implementing agent to complete the revised scope of the project. The revised scope of work would focus on the restoration of the dwelling house and the bombed clinic, converting them to interpretative spaces. A multi-purpose centre with Wi-Fi facilities and parking space would also be constructed. Construction was expected to begin in April 2018 and the hand-over to the local municipality was scheduled for 31 October 2019.
One Member wanted to know where the ownership of the project lay. Was it at national, provincial, district or local level? Another Member wanted to know if the R 3 million mentioned in the presentation was the same R 3 million that had been loaned to the municipality in 2008. There were concerns that the security fences around the project were of inferior quality and not strong enough. The architect’s plan needed to be submitted to the Committee for Members to check if the amounts paid to the architects were appropriate for the work done as the site was very small and the structures were already there. The Chairperson was concerned that the reduction in the allocated funds could cause problems in the future. She emphasised that Winnie Mandela had to be consulted on the project as it was in her name.
The Lejweleputswa District Municipality made an oral presentation, but it was brief and not very informative. The Chairperson suggested that the CFO should go back and find the records so that he could respond to all questions at the next meeting. One Member asked why the District Municipality had taken so long to meet with the Local Municipality.
The Masilonyana Local Municipality was in financial distress and had been placed under an Administrator. The Municipality was implementing a financial recovery plan. However, as the beneficiary of the project, the Municipality would play the pivotal role of oversight and would facilitate public participation. The Municipality had started the process of cleaning the area around the museum and would like to see the place as a tourism attraction centre that would assist in local economic development. The Municipality would assist with turning the soccer ground into a multi-purpose centre; erecting of stalls for street vendors; greening and beautification, and provision of 24-hour security. A proper maintenance plan would be put in place.
The Committee appreciated the frank explanation of the financial status of the Municipality and stated that the District Municipality and the Free State government would have to assist financially.
It was decided that the Committee would hold a meeting in the Free State when the budget for the Department of Arts and Culture was ready for presentation. Members would discuss the Department budget and they could deal with the Brandfort project on the same day.
The Chairperson welcomed the Committee and the delegations. She apologised for the absence of the Chairperson who was busy elsewhere. The Chairperson noted that almost all political figures and ministerial officials were not present. That was unacceptable. She noted that the previous meeting had discussed the perceived corruption in the project and the money that could not be accounted for. That investigation would be referred to SCOPA and the parliamentary legal service would have to advise. The legal advisors could not attend that day as they were fully committed to other meetings.
No one was present to represent the Free State province, although a presentation had been received. The Chairperson also had presentations from the district and local municipality.
Mrs T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (Western Cape DA) was disappointed that the Minister and Deputy Minister were not at the meeting. Some officials were present, and a presentation had been sent by the Free State, but she did not who was going to make the presentation. The Committee had tried its best. She had a proposal. She suggested that the Free State provincial department ferried the Committee to the Free State. And then they could talk to the politicians who did not have time to go to Parliament. The Committee could not go forward as the legal advisor was not in attendance. She moved for a motion to adjourn the meeting and reschedule when all relevant delegations and leadership were present.
Ms D Ngwenya (Gauteng EFF) supported the motion by Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana and asked for the meeting to be adjourned. She also wanted it recorded that it was disrespectful that the political heads were not there. It was a problem that had been experienced ever since she had become a Member of the Committee. Something had to be done to make people take the Committee seriously. It was an important matter and she appreciated that officials were there, but she asked that the Committee be respected.
Mr M Khawula (KwaZulu-Natal IFP) stated that he understood and supported the opinions of his fellow Committee Members. However, given that there was a delegation ready to present, that delegation should be given the opportunity to present, especially in light of the financial situation of the municipalities and as they had flown all the way from the Free State and expenses had been incurred on their behalf.
Ms T Mampuru (Limpopo ANC) supported the opinion of Mr Khawula. Constituents wanted to know what was happening. She was particularly disappointed that no one from the ministry was at the meeting. If the Minister could not make it, the Deputy Minister should be there.
Mr G Michalakis (North West DA) indicated that the two municipalities were in attendance and it seemed only right to hear them, although he agreed that at some stage the senior politicians would have to answer to the Committee. However, he agreed that expenses had been incurred for delegation members to be there and they should be afforded the opportunity to present and engage with the Committee so that their expenses and efforts were not in vain. They could not be treated in the same way as those who had not been compliant.
Ms M Moshodi (Free State ANC) was very unhappy and supported the comments of her colleagues. She did not believe that the Municipal Manager, who had only been in office for a month, and the Mayor, who was also new, would be able to answer the questions that the Committee had about the matter. She agreed that the meeting should be postponed.
Mr G Hattingh (Western Cape DA) believed that an explanation should be demanded from those who should have been at the meeting. Secondly, he understood that the municipalities were struggling financially and did not want them to condemn them to fruitless expenditure.
The Chairperson noted that everyone had expressed their dissatisfaction with the political heads from national and the province who were not there and had not provided an apology. However, while three Members wanted the meeting cancelled, four Members, the majority, believed that consideration should be given to those who had prepared for the meeting and were in attendance. She noted that the predecessors of the Municipal Manager and the Mayor were responsible for what had happened regarding the project.
She believed that the Committee should continue with the meeting, but it was the second meeting that people were absent despite the very serious issues that had been raised in connection with the project. She appreciated the presence of the Director-General of the Department of Arts and Culture, but he was the administrative head and the Committee had been struggling to get political leadership of the project. She stated that the political leadership would have to appear at the next meeting. The Chairperson referred to the suggestion that the Committee went to the Free State, and the province paid for the visit. She asked Members to reflect on the issue, whether it was financially possible and advisable. Alternatively, the Committee could summons the political leadership to appear before the Committee. She asked for comment from the Members.
Mr Khawula noted that if the Committee went to the Free State, it would be at the Committee’s own expense. However, he did see value in visiting the site so that the Committee could see exactly how things stood there.
Ms Mampuru thanked the Chairperson for the clarity regarding the funding aspect. However, she remained adamant that the Executive was accountable to the politicians and they were the politicians to whom the Minister of the Department of Arts and Culture and the provincial MEC had to account to. She did not agree that the Committee should have to summons the Executive. She remained adamant that the Chairperson should cancel the meeting in the light of the failure of the Minister, Deputy Minister and MEC to attend the meeting.
The Chairperson agreed that it would be a good idea to go to the Free State and expose the things that were happening there. She noted the look of alarm on the face of the Municipal Manager’s face. She informed the Committee that it would be best if the Committee went to the Free State on the day that Members were to discuss the budget of the Department of Arts and Culture and they could deal with the Brandfort project on the same day. That would be best use of the budget and their time. They would want to visit the site but could meet elsewhere.
Presentation of Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela House Project Report by the Department of Arts and Culture
The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) had entered into a tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MOA with the Free State Provincial Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSACR) and Independent Development Trust (IDT) in July 2012 for the IDT to develop plans for the renovation and conversion of the Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela house in Brandfort into an Interpretive Centre. R 3 000 000 was available for the implementation of the project.
Challenges had arisen when the contractor had left site after two months due to non-payment by IDT and poor contract management. DAC had since concluded a procurement process to appoint a new implementing agent to complete the revised scope of the project. The revised scope of work would focus on the restoration of the dwelling house and the bombed clinic, converting them to interpretative spaces. A multi-purpose centre with Wi-Fi facilities and parking space would also be constructed. The appointed contractor should be established on site from 1 April 2018 and construction completed by 31 October 2019. 24-hour security services had been provided for the site and a perimeter fence, a guard house with running water and toilet facilities had been completed.
The Chairperson thanked the DG and asked the Lejweleputswa District Municipality to present. She asked that the presenters for both the district and local municipalities inform the Committee of the monies available for the project.
Presentation by Lejweleputswa District Municipality
Mr P Pitso, the CFO of Lejweleputswa District Municipality, made an oral presentation. He explained that although he had worked for the District Municipality since 2012, he had not been involved in the project and was unable to respond to questions about what had gone wrong. The Chairperson would have to put those questions to his principals, the Municipal Manager and the Mayor, both of whom were not at the meeting.
The Chairperson queried Mr Pitso’s attendance in Cape Town if he could not contribute anything to the engagement. He ought to have investigated the background of the matter before coming to the meeting. She cautioned him to have the information at the next meeting. The Committee did not want to believe that he was hiding things.
The CFO assured the Chairperson that he would go back and find the records so that he could respond to all questions at the next meeting.
Mr Michalakis asked that when the CFO returned with the information and was able to account, he specifically accounted for the R3 million that had been given to the municipality by the provincial department in 2008 when the reporting provisions had been gazetted. He had sent an official request to the Minister in October 2017 and had not received a response, although he believed that the Minister had not received a response from the Municipality. He would like the Municipality to account for the loan at the next meeting and indicate if reporting had followed the gazetted guidelines.
Mr Khawula wanted to know what the CFO had come to Parliament to do. He had given the shortest presentation ever.
The CFO indicated that he would provide the required information at the next meeting. It had been decided at the meeting with the Deputy Minister on 7 February 2018 that the district municipality would engage with the Masilonyana Local Municipality where the project was located.
Presentation by Masilonyana Local Municipality
The Mayor, Nontsizi Moshana, and the Municipal Manager, Mr David Nthau, who made the presentation, represented Masilonyana Local Municipality. Mr Nthau explained that the municipality was in financial distress and had been placed under an Administrator. The Municipality was implementing a financial recovery plan. He had been appointed on 4 January 2018, but he accepted that he was responsible for managing what had occurred in the past.
He informed the meeting that Masilonyana Local Municipality as the beneficiary would play a pivotal role of oversight and facilitate public participation.
The Masilonyana Local Municipality (MLM) had started the process of cleaning the area around the museum and would like to see the place as a tourism attraction centre and assist in Local Economic Development. The Municipality would assist with turning the soccer ground into a multi-purpose center; erecting of stalls for street vendors; greening and beautification, and provision of 24-hour security to the center. A proper maintenance plan would be put in place.
Mr Khawula wanted to know where the ownership of the project lay - at national, provincial, district or local level? That was key to understanding the matter. He suspected that that they might be subjecting the local and district municipality to an unfair advantage between province and national. He wanted to know who the current contractor was, the issues pertaining to heritage, restrictions and requirements going forward.
Mr Michalakis thanked the presenters for their presentations. He asked the DAC if the R3 million mentioned in the presentation was the same R3 million that had been lent to the municipality in 2008. Who was the implementing agent and how much money had been paid in the process? The architect’s plan needed to be submitted to the Committee to check if the amounts paid to the architects were appropriate for the work done as the site seemed very small and the structures were already there. Why had the District Municipality taken so long to meet with the Local Municipality? He asked DAC whether the MoU mentioned in the presentation had been completed and signed, and if so, what were the roles allocated to the municipalities? The presenter had made it clear that the Municipality was not in a position financially to manage the project going forward and he understood that because he was a local boy and knew that there was no money in the municipal coffers to pay for the project. The province and national had to be aware of that. He asked how much, if any, money had been paid over to DM-DMZ Construction. Who paid the local security company, how long had they been working there and how much had they been paid? He was pleased to see that they offered 13 jobs but was it 13 new jobs opportunities or did the company employ 13 people? He did not believe that there was a need for 13 new security jobs at that site.
Mrs Mpambo-Sibhukwana asked about the security fences which did not seem sufficiently strong. They seemed to be of a very low quality and the guard houses seemed more like backyard shed. She wanted a breakdown of the expenditure of the R144 000 expended. She thanked Masilonyana for empowering local women and employing local women. Her only hope was that the national and provincial departments would not fail them and that they would hold them accountable if they did. The issue of public participation had been addressed and she appreciated the sustainable plan as she believed that the municipality would make the Committee proud.
Mr Khawula asked if the operational plan had been developed and would be in place going forward.
The Chairperson stated that there were representatives ready to present on behalf of other people. The Committee found it to be the highest level of disrespect. The absence of the Minister and Deputy Minister and other relevant political heads was a constant thing which was utterly disrespectful to the Committee and their presence was expected in the next meeting. Only those invited to present at the meeting would be permitted to present. She noted that the sports field had been added to the site, so she wanted to know if the municipality had plans to use the additional space effectively.
The Chairperson noted that R 3 million had been allocated by the national Department and another R 3 million by the provincial Department, which totalled R 6 million but that had been reduced to R1.9 million. Could the reduction in the allocation bring about problems in the future? It was not the intention of the Committee to get into the operational detail, but the project had not been completed over many years and the money had been spent. She asked about the appointment of the project manager. She did not understand why a corporate director was being appointed project manager to a construction site.
The Chairperson emphasised that the site was permanent and that instead of a temporary structure, consideration should be given to a permanent fence. She did not understand why the municipality wanted the district to confirm the site when that was a local municipality role. She emphasized that Winnie Mandela was still alive and asked that she be consulted on the project that was in her name. She pointed out that if Mama Winnie did not like the project, she would simply say that she had not been consulted and would not want to have anything to do with it. It was important to seek her opinion and suggestions as to what she would like or disliked. She reminded the Department that Members needed to be invited in time to attend the opening. Too often the Department told Members on the afternoon before an event that they were invited to attend. She emphasised the need for the Memorandum of Understanding.
The Mayor of Masilonyana Local Municipality, Nontsizi Moshana, informed the Committee that the only thing that the municipality wanted to do at that time was to move forward. However, she pointed out that the municipality did not have a budget for the project.
Mr Vusimusi Mkhize, Director-General of the Department of Arts and Culture, responded that the Department had full responsibility to get the project finalised and it had been made clear in the presentation that the project would be handed over by October 2019, giving an opportunity to plan in terms of sustainability so that it would not become a white elephant. The current plan was that the Department would take the responsibility until completion and then the provincial Sports and Recreation Department would manage the site. The bigger picture was that the project was not isolated but was linked to development in Brandfort. Human settlement around that area needed to be considered. Housing initiatives for teachers would create vibrancy and enhance teaching development in the area, instead of having teachers travel from Bloemfontein back and forth daily. It would serve a purpose both socially and economically.
The DG did not know of R 3 million that had been given to the municipality, but he knew of R3 million set aside by the Department, of which funds had been given to IDT for the architecture and the contractor and IDT had R1.2 million unspent that the Department would have to get back.
An MOU would be signed stating explicitly who would be responsible for what. The architect’s designs were available and were the original designs. He stated that Winnie Mandela would be taken to the site, but the family had advised at the time that she had been invited that she could not travel that distance. However, the visit would happen before everything was finalised. The operational plan going forward was one of extreme detail and conciseness and would be presented when the Department was given the opportunity, once the plan was finalised and National Treasury had been consulted.
Mr Mkhize emphasised that there was collaboration with the National Heritage Agency and Provincial Heritage Agency, along with the Free State National Heritage Agency in keeping the heritage and integrity of the site. Even whilst restoring the house, foreign materials would be kept to a minimum and not brought to the site unless needed in order to keep with the heritage, including the furniture.
Mr P Pitso, the CFO of Lejweleputswa District Municipality, stated that after the meeting of 7 February 2018 with the national Department, the District Municipality had agreed that it would have to assist the local municipality if the project were to succeed. On Friday 16 February, a meeting had been held with the Mayor of Masilonyana Local Municipality to take the process forward.
The Municipal Manager of Masilonyana Local Municipality, Mr David Nthau, agreed that the local municipality did not have the money for the project, but the municipality was doing what it could to get the project off the ground. He noted that his office had determined that there should be 13 job opportunities, not jobs. Those job opportunities would not be confirmed to security positions. He explained that there were only three senior managers in the Municipality. There was a vacancy in the position for head of technical services and so for the sake of accountability, the Municipality had decided that the Corporate Manager would assume responsibility for the project.
The Chairperson thanked the Municipality for their disclosure on their financial status so that there were no unrealistic expectations of the municipality and stated that money needed to be put aside by the District Municipality. She emphasised that it was a very important project for the Members of Parliament. She thanked the Free State Members for following up on the project. The MoU was important, and the DG had to finalise that. She recommended that the district and local municipalities drew up a plan that they could refer to in order to explain how far they were when asked by Parliament or others. She repeated a suggestion that the famous picture of Winnie Mandela and Nelson Mandela raising their hands as Mandela was released from prison would make a good statue for the site and would draw tourists and locals to the area and make it a tourist attraction.
Ms Moshodi thanked the delegation and stated that she would sleep much more peacefully as she was relieved that the presentation had been made. She thanked the Municipal Manager.
Mr Khawula, stated that it was a very good project, but it would need to be handled with care. He made it clear that, to avoid hiccups, compliance would first need to be authorised by the heritage agencies before development could take place.
Mr Michalakis requested that the Department forward the plans and the breakdown of funds spent on security infrastructure. He wished everyone the best of luck with the project, especially as it could create opportunities in an area of need, but he reminded everyone that Parliament would be keeping an eye on the project. The CFO of the District Municipality had to return and account for the money that had been allocated for the project. It was very sad and did not sit well with anyone when money disappeared from important historical projects. He stated that the meeting with the local municipality had happened so late because the MEC and the Minister had only woken up and visited the house after he had taken the matter to the media. For years and years, only the local community and the local politician knew about the project and that was why nothing had happened, and money had disappeared.
The Chairperson stated that there was a need to visit the province and the site and when the Committee had the Department’s budget, it would go to the Free State and a meeting would be conducted on site with all the political heads present. The Chairperson was unhappy with Mr Michalakis for taking the issue to the media and told him that airing their dirty laundry was not something that should be done. It could be done internally to avoid damage and as a Committee, Members could have looked into it.
The Chairperson stated that in the next meeting all political and leadership figures and ministerial officials would need to be present and it would not be taken lightly if they missed the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned
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