ATC181031: Joint Report of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation and the Portfolio Committee on Public Works on conducting a joint oversight visit on the status of state-owned properties in Namibia, dated 31 October 2018
Joint Report of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation and the Portfolio Committee on Public Works on conducting a joint oversight visit on the status of state-owned properties in Namibia, and on the implementation and execution of South Africa’s international relations policy, in Windhoek and Walvis Bay, Namibia, dated 31 October 2018.
The Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation and the Portfolio Committee on Public Works (hereinafter jointly referred to as Portfolio Committees), having conducted a joint oversight on the status of state-owned properties in Namibia and on the implementation and execution of South Africa’s international relations policy in Windhoek and Walvis Bay, Namibia from 30 July-4 August 2018, report as follows:
1.1.1 Members of Parliament
1) Honourable MSA Masango (ANC) Chairperson Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, and Leader of delegation
2) Honourable H Mmemezi (ANC) Chairperson Portfolio Committee on Public Works and co-Leader
3) Honourable M Lesoma (ANC)
4) Honourable CQ Madlopha (ANC))
5) Honourable EKM Masehela (ANC)
6) Honourable M Figg (DA)
7) Honourable D Bergman (DA)
1.1.2 Parliamentary Officials
1) Ms L Mosala, Content Adviser
2) Ms N Jobodwana, Committee Secretary
1.1.3 Office of the Chief State Law Adviser representatives
1) Ms T Steenkamp Hefer, Office of the Chief State Law Adviser
2) Mr S Mpongosha, Office of the Chief State Law Adviser
1.1.4 Representatives of the South African High Commission to Namibia
- His Excellency, High Commissioner William Whitehead and officials of the South African High Commission in Namibia
The Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation (hereinafter singularly referred to as the Committee) is engaged in processing the Foreign Service Bill (the Bill) 2015, which is meant to cater for the unique work environment in which it operates. It is envisaged that the Bill would provide for the proper management, administration and functioning of the Foreign Service of the Republic of South Africa. It would also create the necessary flexibility to address the challenges posed by it operating at a global level.
Clause 8 of the Bill relating to ‘Assets’, provides the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation with the powers to acquire, maintain, lease or dispose of immovable assets of the Department within or outside the Republic. This proposal has been vehemently challenged by the Department of Public Works, as contrary to the Government Immovable Assets Management Act (GIAMA),2005 (Act No. 13 OF 2005), which bestows the mandate to acquire and dispose of government property on the Department of Public Works. It has further been argued that any intended disposal of state-owned properties or land parcels should be conducted in line with the prescripts of the State Land Disposal Act 48 of 1961.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (the Department) has also advanced its own reasons why it wishes to take up the responsibility to manage, acquire and dispose of state-owned properties abroad. It is a common practice in the Missions that the Foreign Office of the receiving state manages all acquisitions, including leases, additions and sales of real property by foreign missions to assure that it is consistent with national security interests, reciprocity, and applicable local and international law. Any purchase, lease, sale, alteration, addition or change in use of existing properties, must be notified to the office of Foreign Missions in that country. These properties, whether for an embassy or a consulate, should have been registered under the legal persona of the Mission, under the signature of the Head of Mission, on behalf of his/her sending state.
All Missions are expected to comply with applicable local laws and regulations, and be good neighbours to local residents. It therefore becomes easier to manage and seek assistance where needed, if the property has been registered directly under the Mission. International law practice and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, recognises the legal capacity for embassies to acquire property for the purposes and use by such offices.
In terms of the State Land Disposal Act, the mandate to dispose of state properties is vested in the Department of Public Works. The Department has pointed out that the Department of Public Works has not been in agreement nor facilitated processes requested by the Department to put to other use or dispose of surplus vacant land parcels or properties abroad. As a result, under clause 8, the Department proposes to create a mandate that would enable it to acquire, manage and or dispose of all state-owned properties (buildings and vacant land parcels) in the Missions abroad.
- Oversight concerns raised by the Committee on International Relations and Cooperation
The Committee has noted that the Department has land parcels and properties lying fallow in many parts of the world. The Committee has also recognised the fact that this impasse on the disposal of state-owned properties abroad has been on the agenda of both departments for over a decade. It has thus been an oversight challenge facing the Committee over the same period.
It has also become an important oversight issue of concern to the Committee in that year after year, the Auditor-General’s reports point to the inaction by the Department to dispose of vacant state-owned land parcels and properties abroad, in order to clean up its Asset Register. Since 2010, the Committee’s Budget Review and Recommendation Reports (BRRR) have also raised this issue, and the response has been that the Department has no mandate to dispose of the surplus properties, only the Department of Public Works was empowered to do so. This situation has therefore resulted in the Department receiving a number of qualified audit opinions relating to its asset management issues.
The Committees have noted that the issue of vacant land parcels and properties abroad is a serious oversight issue relating to the two departments. The current Parliamentary Oversight Model has created serious oversight challenges for these Committees, as it has not allowed space for the Committees to conduct oversight abroad over the hot spots in this regard.
The situation has created diplomatic embarrassments, leading to representational and reputational risk to the image of the country in those places where these properties are lying vacant. This is because some of these properties are donations made to the Government of South Africa even before 1994.
There have also been complaints from neighbouring residents that the empty properties were devaluing other properties in those areas. The other issue has been that in some areas, criminal elements were taking advantage of derelict properties to commit other unbecoming behaviour in the unattended premises.
The Committee is further concerned that the situation has also created a number of fruitless and wasteful expenditure trends in the affected embassies. This has been because the affected South African embassies abroad have to continue paying rates as in water and electricity; engage temporary or full time security guards in some areas to guard the empty premises; and engage cleaning services on a regular basis, to keep the interior and exterior of the empty land parcels and properties in good state in accordance with the by-laws of the cities they are located in.
The budget of the Department has suffered a great deal year after year. This has been because its rental costs are very high, while most of its operational costs relating to renting and maintenance of properties abroad is paid in foreign currency. Some Missions are renting office and residential accommodation in countries where there are vacant state-owned land parcels and properties. The Committee has constantly recommended that the Department should look into acquiring instead of renting properties abroad. However, simply because they cannot dispose of property in order to build new premises and avoid renting, the Committee has observed that the Department is often faced with a reduction in operational budget.
As a result of all the challenges above, it became untenable for the Committee to undertake an inspection in loco visit to Namibia, in order to investigate, understand and have adequate information on the scale of the operational and diplomatic challenges posed by vacant state-owned land parcels and properties across the globe. After investigating and producing an evidence-based oversight report, the Committee would be in an informed and better place to deliberate, decide and finalise input on Clause 8 of the Bill, thus addressing the bone of contention between the two departments and putting to rest the recurring oversight challenges relating to asset management.
- Mandate of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation
The mandate of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (the Department) has expanded due to global demands and the country’s role within that space. The Department is reported to be operating in a dynamic environment that encapsulates varying legislative and monetary regimes, which in turn, impact on its foreign policy operations. South Africa maintains diplomatic relations with countries and organisations through 124 missions in 106 countries abroad, and through the accreditation of more than 160 countries and organisations resident in South Africa.
The South African diplomatic and consular missions abroad are charged with implementing South Africa’s foreign policy to enhance its international profile, and serve as strategic mechanisms for the achievement of national interest. As widely argued by foreign policy analysts, a successful foreign policy can only be measured by how well domestic priorities are met through the country’s bilateral and multilateral involvement and engagement.
The Department is responsible for developing and maintaining bilateral political and economic partnerships in the various regions of the world. This is usually pursued through structured bilateral mechanisms such as bi-national commissions (BNCs), joint national commissions (JNCs) or joint commissions (JTs). These bilateral mechanisms remain important vehicles for cooperation and promoting South Africa’s national priorities as reflected in policy documents such as the National Development Plan (NDP). Through bilateral relations, the priority needs of Africa and the South are also pursued, and most importantly, these relations exist for the promotion of South Africa’s trade, investment and tourism potential.
- Mandate of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation
In terms of sections 55 and 92 of the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation (the Committee) is mandated to oversee and ensure accountability in the formulation and conduct of the South Africa’s international relations policy. Consequently, the Committee conducts oversight on the activities of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (the Department) including other activities carried by the Department and South Africa’s missions abroad; its missions abroad on; policies, legislation, financial spending patterns, administrative issues, and hold the Department accountable for its operations and functions. including other activities carried by the Department and South Africa’s missions abroad.
- Mandate of the Portfolio Committee of Public Works
The Portfolio Committee on Public Works conducts oversight over the programmatic deliverables of the Department of Public Works (DPW) and its entities to implement the policies made by the Minister of Public Works as per the mandate of the DPW.
- The Mandate of the Department of Public Works
The Department of Public Works is the custodian and manager of all national governments’ immovable assets. This includes the acquisition, maintenance and disposal of such assets. The DPW is further responsible for the determination of accommodation requirements, and rendering expert built environment services to client departments. The DPW has a regulatory function over the construction and build environment. It exercises a property management, maintenance and trading function in respect of government immovable properties.
While in the past, the DPW acted as regulator as well as property manager of government immovable assets, from 2012 the department has been undergoing a turnaround strategy. As part of this turnaround strategy, the function of property management, maintenance and trading has been devolved to the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE). As a custodian of vast immovable assets of government, there is substantial opportunity to generate income. The PMTE is responsible for this aspect of the public works function. This aspect has lagged behind for many years due to the incompleteness of the Government Immovable Asset Register (GIAR) that is managed by the DPW as regulator and custodian department at the national level.
- Structure of the joint report
This report serves to outline the engagements of the joint delegation of the Committees (herein after simply referred to as, the Oversight Committee delegation) to Windhoek and Walvis Bay, Namibia. The draft joint report will cover the introduction which gives the background for the visit and the Committee delegation that undertook the Oversight visit. It would also depict the different constitutional mandates of the two Committees and the Departments which influenced the undertaking of the joint Oversight visit; the conducting of the inspection in loco in Namibia, thematic issues discussed with the High Commission; findings by the Oversight Committee delegation and proposed recommendations to the House.
2. Foreign policy framework
Chapter 7 of the National Development Plan (NDP) envisioned South Africa as a globally competitive economy and an influential, leading member of the international community. In pursuing South Africa’s Foreign Policy, the Department is informed by South Africa’s current global stature where the country is a respected, active and responsible global player.
In 2018, South Africa maintained diplomatic relations with countries and organisations through 124 missions in 106 countries abroad, and through the accreditation of more than 160 countries and organizations resident in South Africa. Thus South Africa hosts the second largest number of foreign representation in the world. As a consequence of this mandate, the Department has embassies in many parts of the world and it has to maintain its presence including with suitable accommodation for office use and for residence of staff members.
3. Objectives and key questions for the oversight
- Establish the current status of state-owned properties or land parcels in Walvis Bay and Windhoek, Namibia (rented out, unoccupied, commercial activity, secured).
- Establish whether the land parcel/premises are registered in the local Deeds Registry as properties of South Africa.
- Establish whether the properties and land parcel are duly registered in the Mission’s Asset Register.
- Establish reasons for the property to be unoccupied.
- Establish reasons for the land parcel to have remained undeveloped.
- Establish for how long the land parcel/property has been standing fallow.
- Conduct an inspection in loco on the vacant state-owned land parcel in Windhoek and Walvis Bay.
- Assess the state of the land parcel at the time of inspection.
- Conduct an inspection in loco at the vacant premises belonging to the Government of South Africa in Windhoek and Walvis Bay.
- Assess the state of the vacant premises at the time of inspection.
- Assess the impact the vacant property or land parcel has created in the neighbourhood.
- Assess the impact the vacant property or land parcel has had on the bilateral relations South Africa and Namibia.
- Establish and assess the impact the vacant property or land has had on the relations with the Cities of Walvis Bay and Windhoek.
- Assess the proportion of empty properties and vacant land parcels in relation to the value of the asset portfolio.
- Assess the cost associated with the unoccupied properties, such as municipal rates (water and electricity connections), cleaning services, security, maintenance.
- Establish and assess the existence of fruitless and wasteful expenditure, that could have been avoided if the situation was otherwise.
- To what extent does the shared responsibility and accountability, between the Department of Public Works and the Department, on government properties abroad impact on the ability of the Department to adequately manage government properties used by Missions abroad?
- To what extent do the disposal procedures and requirements stipulated in the State Land Disposal Act of 1961 assist or hamper the disposal of surplus/derelict properties and vacant land parcels abroad?
- To what extent does the shared responsibility and accountability between the two departments on government assets abroad, impact on the Committee’s oversight responsibility on the overall use of government properties/land parcels abroad?
- Assess how Clause 8 of the Foreign Service Bill 2015, would best serve the interests of South Africa in the Missions abroad.
- Assess and determine the best way forward in relation to Clause 8 of the Bill regarding acquiring, maintaining and disposal of surplus/derelict state-owned properties abroad.
4. Property portfolio of the Department
- Current status of land and property portfolio of the Department
The Department manages a portfolio of domestic and international properties. Expenditures incurred in the domestic portfolio include: unitary payments for the public-private partnership for the head office building; rental and maintenance costs for three state protocol lounges at the OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka international airports; the costs of two diplomatic guesthouses; and the accommodation costs of United Nations agencies, the Pan African Parliament and the NEPAD secretariat.
The Department’s international property portfolio is reported to consist of approximately 127 state owned properties and in excess of 1000 rented properties. It was reported that presently, the Department spends about R575 million per year on leases in countries where it does not own properties. The Department has developed a property acquisition strategy for the accelerated acquisition of state-owned accommodation via alternative funding mechanisms such as finance lease arrangements.
In response to the Committee’s recommendations, the Department’s new property management strategy was approved in August 2017 to provide for a mixture of rental and ownership. To reduce the cost of rental properties, the Department was in the process of drafting a plan to own properties in missions for office and residential accommodation. Accordingly, and for piloting purposes, the Department was in the process of purchasing a property in New York to house the country’s mission office and residence in the United States.
All state owned properties are maintained annually from operational funds allocated to individual missions. The day-to-day property maintenance continues to be executed by missions and monitored by Head Office with specific key performance areas at both levels.
- The obtaining situation on the ground relating to state-owned vacant land parcels and properties
The Department has reported having 14 land parcels in the following countries:
New Delhi (India), Juba (South Sudan), Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Kigali (Rwanda), Dakar (Senegal), Bamako (Mali), Mbabane, (Swaziland) and Gaborone (Botswana).
The Department furthermore reported owning vacant/unused offices and residences in the following countries:
-two in Blantyre (Malawi);
-four in Walvis Bay and five in Windhoek (Namibia);
-one in Banjul (the Gambia);
-one in Sao Paulo and two in Brasilia (Brazil);
-two in Bonn (Germany);
-one in Zurich (Switzerland);
- one in Funchal (Portugal); and
-one parking bay in Paris (France).
In this regard, the Department pointed out that it continued to engage with Public Works on the disposal of these properties whilst performing basic maintenance, security and cleaning services. Two properties, that is in Blantyre and in Windhoek are being rented out, while others remain unoccupied. Rates such as water and electricity connections, security, maintenance and cleaning services are undertaken by the Missions for all the properties.
Regarding unoccupied properties, the following reasons were advanced by the Department: The Government has downsized its diplomatic presence and also closed offices in Walvis Bay, Blantyre, Banjul, and in Funchal. The Department has also moved its offices from Bonn to Berlin and from Zurich to Bern. In the case of Brasilia and Sao Paolo; due to security considerations, the areas where the properties are situated have deteriorated and are no longer suitable as official residences for diplomats.
5. Meeting with the South African High Commission in Windhoek 30 July 2018
The Oversight Committee delegation was met by the Head of Mission, H.E Mr William Whitehead, South African High Commissioner to Namibia, who at the time had only been on post for five months. The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, Honourable Siphosezwe Masango, introduced the joint Parliamentary delegation and elaborated on the historical reasons why Namibia was chosen for the kind of oversight. He then explained that the Joint Oversight was on a two-pronged visit to Namibia.
It was firstly, to assess, first hand, the status quo of vacant and occupied state-owned properties and pockets of land in Windhoek and Walvis Bay. He further pointed out that according to the (GIAMA), the status quo was that the Department of Public Works was responsible over all state-owned properties in South Africa and abroad. In the Bill before the Committee, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation proposes to execute all related functions on state-owned properties which are under the purview of South African Missions abroad. Honourable Masango reiterated that the inspection in loco would assist the Portfolio Committee of International Relations and Cooperation to make an adjudicative determination on the way forward, in order to finalise clause 8 of the Foreign Service Bill before it.
The other matter of interest regarding the property portfolio in Namibia was said to be the fact that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation only reported on four properties in Walvis Bay and nine properties in Windhoek, whereas the total property portfolio under the responsibility of the High Commission is 20. Secondly, the delegation would conduct oversight over the activities of the High Commission in Namibia, in pursuit of the implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy.
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works, Honourable Humphrey Mmemezi, also thanked the High Commission and introduced the other members of the delegation. He pointed out that the Portfolio Committee on Public Works joined the other committee because part of its mandate was to oversee the performance of the Department of Public Works with regard to the maintenance of properties abroad. He pointed out that it would be of interest to the Public Works committee to assess the status quo of state-owned properties in Namibia in order to contribute to the finalisation of the Bill being processed by the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, as well as to reach an amicable solution with the Department of Public Works on the way forward. Honourable Mmemezi further expressed a desire by his committee to also visit the Walvis Bay harbour initiative, to learn best practice in developing small harbours with the aim to grow them into commercial harbours.
- Responses by the High Commission
- Status of properties in Namibia
The High Commissioner, His Excellency Mr William Whitehead, gave an overview of political country profile of Namibia. He spoke to the historical relationship between the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Namibia and the issues influential to the political and economic landscape in Namibia.
With regard to the joint oversight visit, the High Commissioner expressed hope that the outcome from the historic joint oversight visit would bear fruit and commitment to implement a lasting solution to the challenge of state-owned properties in Namibia. He also saw the joint oversight visit as a pilot project that would assist solve similar challenges regarding South African government properties in other parts of the world.
The High Commission gave a detailed background as to what led to the status quo on state-owned properties in Namibia. It was highlighted that the property portfolio in Namibia was acquired in early 1990’s, during the Republic of South Africa/South West Africa negotiations for the independence of Namibia. It was further reported that during the time, it was agreed that the Government of the Republic of South Africa would retain properties for diplomatic purposes in both Windhoek (where the embassy is located) and Walvis Bay (where it had a consulate). The Consulate was to be operational only during the transitional phase and was closed down two years later after independence, when the need for accommodation in Walvis Bay ceased.
The High Commission further reported that the current status was such that in Windhoek, the portfolio consisted of 16 state-owned properties, namely the Chancery, Official Residence and 14 residential houses. In Walvis Bay, there are four (4) state-owned properties.
It was highlighted that most of the houses were built around 1960’s and 1970’s and were structurally still sound. Most of these properties were said to be built on hilly terrain, and given the geographical position of Windhoek and the prevailing climatic conditions, the water drainage systems are in general very poor. As a result of the old nature of the properties and the ground conditions, it has let to extensive cracking of boundary walls, but the houses structures remain strong with sound and proper foundations. The poor drainage has resulted in water running through properties when it rains, especially affecting government houses built at a lower level than adjacent houses belonging to other residents. These circumstances have resulted in damp and mould in some of the state-owned properties, where some of these have been rendered inhabitable by the Municipality of Windhoek.
The Oversight Committee delegation was again informed that extensive property renovations were undertaken in 2007-2009, resulting in the Chancery and the Official Residence being modernised and the other houses receiving new kitchens, bathrooms, flooring and roofing. However, the electrical and plumbing systems of all the properties were very old, with extensive repairs and maintenance needed on an ongoing basis.
The other compounding problem reported by the High Commission was the reduction in staff complement in Windhoek and the closing of the Consulate in Walvis Bay, led to a number of houses becoming vacant and rendered as surplus to the needs of the Government of South Africa. It was reported that in some cases, the houses have been vandalised in the extreme, with all systems and the interior finishing removed or stolen. It was reported that the High Commission had secured security and guarding services for some properties, but the vandalising episodes sadly took place while the security services were in place. It was pointed out that the Auditor-General has already viewed the cost incurred to maintain and secure unoccupied properties as fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
All properties that are and can be utilised by the High Commission, have been the subject of an extensive conditions assessment and has a maintenance plan for the next three (3) years. The High Commission itself mentioned that it has limited maintenance funds, which would be augmented by Head Office in order to implement the maintenance plan. The High Commission continued to face challenges in executing its maintenance plan due to the reduced staff component (especially Locally Recruited Personnel LRPs) leaving it dependent on local service providers.
- Previous disposal attempts
In 1999, the then Minister of Public Service, the late Dr Skweyiya, agreed to transfer the power to acquire, lease, and maintain to the then Department of Foreign Affairs. This authorisation included all aspects of property acquisition, development and management of properties abroad, except for disposal of such state-owned properties abroad. The Department at some point proceeded to dispose/sell of two (2) properties in Hamburg, Germany. This led to a drawn out dispute between the Department of Public Works and Foreign Affairs in the light of the fact that in terms of the State Land Disposal Act 1961, the disposal functions are vested in the Minister of Public Works. As such, the disposal action by the Department now of International Relations and Cooperation, was regarded ultra vires and had to be legalised by Public Works, with a strong warning that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation would refrain from disposing of state-owned properties abroad.
It was mentioned that in 2004, the then Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, formally wrote to the Minister of Public Works declaring some the state-owned properties in Namibia as surplus to the needs of the Department and requested a disposal process. The Joint Oversight delegation was informed following several reminders and engagements at the Head Office level. Action was taken in 2009, where the High Commission in Namibia was requested to advertise the concerned properties in the local market and facilitate the receipt of tenders for disposal.
It was pointed out that the disposal process was initiated by the Department of Public Works, and implemented by the High Commission through its headquarters in Pretoria. It was said that bids were received for all the identified properties, and five (5) properties were eventually disposed of in 2013. Informal feedback received from the Public Works on the other properties was that the highest bidders were subsequently unable to secure the necessary funding to purchase the properties. The High Commission reported that it never received formal feedback, while it continued to receive enquiries from bidders on the status of the process.
The High Commission argued that at the time of the Department of Public Works’ disposal initiative, all unused state-owned properties were rented out to private citizens. As part of the disposal pan, these leases had to be terminated make way for occupancy by new owners. Following the apparent failure to sell all of the unused properties, the High Commission has been unable to rent the properties out again except for a flat in the Windhoek Property P. It was argued that this situation has led to nine (9) state-owned properties in both Windhoek and Walvis Bay being vacant for more than 10 years, resulting in them being exposed to vandalism.
The High Commission concluded its presentation with proposals for future utilisation of the state-owned properties in Namibia. It was agreed that the disposal of state-owned properties should be in line with the State Land Disposal Act, 1961, and the Government Immovable Asset Management (GIAMA). The Acts provide for more than one method of disposal and these should be explored further in the Foreign Service Bill as disposal includes: utilisation of properties by other users; renting out; exchange; donation; public private partnerships (PPPs) and selling.
In Namibia, given the high number of unused state-owned properties (four in Walvis Bay and five in Windhoek), the High Commission reiterated that merely disposing of the properties would not make a good economic and investment sense. The High Commissioner emphasised that South Africa could not afford to lose land and properties it already has. All that needed to be done would be to better manage and maintain the properties; and close the flood gates for possibility of corrupt activities. He further pointed out that property should be viewed as a great vehicle for investment on behalf of the people of South Africa, provided the properties are renovated and maintained in good standing. The High Commission proposed that more than one model of disposal be considered.
These could include:
- That properties in Walvis Bay be used by other departments (Defence/State Security-(SSA), Trade);
- Properties in Walvis Bay and Windhoek may be rented out to private occupants (this was already the case for the apartment in Windhoek Property P, rental could be used to defray ownership costs), or rented out to the many South African companies doing business in Namibia, as they are in dire need of accommodation for their staff transferred to Namibia from South Africa;
- Properties with commercial value could be subjected to Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) arrangements, and some South African companies have already expressed interest in such arrangements; and
- Some properties could be donated to the Namibian Government (such a request was previously received); it could also contribute to further building of relations.
The Joint Oversight delegation thanked the High Commission for the synopsis of the situation on the ground. It was agreed that the delegation would be in a better position to comment once they have been on inspection of the concerned properties.
6. Oversight inspection in-loco on state-owned properties in Windhoek
It is important to note that all the twenty state-owned properties in Namibia have valid registered Title Deeds. That confirmed full ownership of the properties by the South African Government. It is also a fact that none of the concerned properties were in arears with property taxes towards the City of Windhoek and the City of Walvis Bay. The prevailing conditions of the state-owned properties in Namibia could safely be categorised into three: those that are in good condition; in mediocre condition and those in a very dilapidated state. All the properties concerned showed strong wall structures, albeit in different levels of neglect.
It is also helpful to put into perspective the staff complement in Windhoek and how the properties have been allocated. It was reported by the High Commission that as per the existing establishment, the South African High Commission in Windhoek has 10 transferred officials, comprising of those from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, State Security Agency (SSA), the Department of Home Affairs, South African Police Service and the South African Defence Force.
It was highlighted that the prevailing allocation was such that six (6) houses, including the Official Residence, have been allocated to transferred officials. These houses were said to be the Windhoek Property B; Windhoek Property K; Windhoek Property L; Windhoek Property M; Windhoek Property N; and Windhoek Property O. The Joint Oversight delegation was informed that seven (7) properties were standing vacant namely: Windhoek Properties C to J. Furthermore, two (2) properties were reported rented out namely a flat at Windhoek Property P and a house at Windhoek Property I. The last property is the Windhoek Property A in the Ludwigsdorf area, making a total of 16 state-owned properties in Windhoek.
Due to the status quo of lack of maintenance to the properties, three (3) officials were in rented accommodation for N$23 000, N$25 000 and N$29 000 per month respectively.
- Windhoek Property A
The Windhoek Property A is a former six (6) storey hotel building, said to have been built in 1959. The structure walls are very solid, although showing signs of lack of regular maintenance and renovations where needed. The security walls around the Windhoek Property A had deep cracks, and the access from the main road is wide open, such that the premises are exposed along the front entrance. The wall at the back car park was too low, and needed heightening. There was evidence of poor roof waterproofing, and damage to the drainage system on the outside of the property. There were some leaking taps and toilets.
The guardhouse had a deep crack through which one could see outside. This could fall over and cause serious injury and fire since the electrical wires were also exposed. There was no peephole/window for the security guard to have a wide surveillance circumference around the premises. The guard had to get out of the building to respond to people seeking service from the High Commission. The High Commission has proposed that a wall be built around the Windhoek Property A, and revamping of all areas relating to the structure of the building.
The basement of the Windhoek Property A was used as a general storage for old, damaged and excess movable assets such tables, chairs, computers, sofas, fridges, beds and any other unused or unwanted terms. The status of the stores was that one could not easily take a count of those assets in order to register them; no was it going to be easy to account for every item as there was no sign of a signed inventory. It was not immediately clear whether National Treasury was made aware of the surplus movable assets and requested for authority to dispose, as per Treasury regulations. Some items were said to have been in the storage room for over ten years.
Signage leading to the Visa section of the Mission was covered with notices for hours of operation. Plumbing systems were also reported to be as old as the building, being the originally installed steel pipes in 1959. There were signs of water seepage and damage on the walls inside and outside the Windhoek Property A.
The other main concern which would need immediate attention is the electrical substation erected within the compound of the Windhoek Property A. It was very old, also erected in the 1950s. It posed as a danger to the personnel and the building structures as any touching of the wires could ignite an explosion. As a result of the insecurity caused by the dysfunctional substation, lights around the Windhoek Property A had to be left perpetually on, because of the fear that any short circuiting while switching lights on and off, may result in an explosion. No doubt this situation was causing wasteful and costly expenditure on electricity for the Windhoek Property A.
The office block was acquired during the apartheid era, that is before 1994, and is owned by the Government of South Africa. The High Commission is in possession of the relevant Deeds Registry documents confirming full ownership of the building. Heating and cooling services were reported as expensive, as the building is six-storey high. The annually planned maintenance for the building was not followed through, due to the requirement to comply with the PFMA, and due to the reduced budget for the medium term.
- Windhoek Property B
The Windhoek Property B was also purchased by the apartheid government, and there were registration papers available to proof ownership of the building. This property is situated in an upmarket and prime area. It is on a hill, indeed beautiful and is a building structure with a presence. However, like all state-owned properties in Namibia, the building is in need of structural upgrading and painting. Since the house was built in the 80s, its drainage, plumbing and electrical gadgets like the motor for the electric gate are outdated. The parameter walls show signs of neglect and the paint is peeling.
The existing drainage system around the house was said to have problems, including the controlled down pipes and guttering from the roof. There was a need for proper channelling of storm water away from the structure of the house, especially at the glass window/loffelstein wall at the rear living area, where various drain points meet. Most of the cabinetry in the house is very old; so were the sanitary fixtures. The cooking stove and the TV set were the old models; there was a need to revamp the entertainment area on the lower floor to allow for the hosting of representational functions. A lot of money is spent on hiring hotel venues for Mission related functions because the Windhoek Property B is not fully fit for purpose, and has a number of areas which require major renovations.
The furniture in the house is also either very old or not clean and scratched. The alarm system was not working, creating a concern of safety as the house has three to four wings, with long passages, making it difficult for one to see what is happening in the other wings. The swimming pool and landscaping needed attention to add to the beauty of the property. The plumbing system is also old and pipes often burst, there is a damp smell in the bathrooms which needs to be addressed. The property is in need of structural upgrading and painting.
- Windhoek Property C
This particular house was reported to have been built in the 70s, and has been standing fallow for over 20 years. It is situated in Pioneers Park suburb, which is further from the High Commission than any other vacant state-owned property. The Pioneers Park was considered not to be a popular residential area. This house was said to be one of the four (4) properties that were approved in 2009 for disposal by the Department of Public Works. It was reported that it has been vacant because unfortunately the bidder could not raise the funding required.
The Oversight Committee delegation found that the property’s overall condition is deplorable, as it was completely vandalised. It had no doors nor windows, all the finishing fixtures were missing; it was evident that at some point the whole structure was set on fire. It had no fencing nor a wall around it, as a result, it was used as a thoroughfare to pass on to other parts of the area. The Oversight Committee delegation also found out that a temporary tenant was said to have vandalised the property when asked to vacate the same when it was earmarked for disposal. The High Commission had no knowledge of who caused the fire to the building, and the case was not reported to the police. The walls and the overall structure of the property were still solid.
There were several letters and a signed petition of complaints from local residents about the state of the property as it was a security risk and devaluing neighbourhood properties. The Joint Oversight delegation was made aware of long time complaints from a concerned neighbour, Mr W Swanepoel. He has been raising concerns with the High Commission for 20 years, with no response, about the vacant and completely deplorable property belonging to the South African Government. Mr Swanepoel’s latest letter was dated 18 July 2018, and he wrote that the house had become a security risk and a “place where rogues and other bad elements operate from”. Due to its specific location, off the main road, it served as a convenient escape route for bad elements.
Mr Swanepoel went further to show that due to the house being vacant for a long time, women and children have been robbed and assaulted from the premises and rogues hide in the premises to attack innocent passers-by. He further pointed out in his letter that his family has suffered immense losses as a result of no less than 15 burglaries by rogues operating from the empty house. Mostly, he mentioned that, due to the dilapidated nature of the house, the market value of his property was currently considerably less than what it should be. He has since made an unsolicited offer of N$1 200 000.000 to purchase the dilapidated state-owned Windhoek Property C. It was further reported that the Namibian police have also attested that criminals have used the vacant property to hide stolen goods.
The High Commission reported that it intended to build a 2.4 meters’ security walls at the back and front of the property, to prevent it being used as a thoroughfare by passers-bye. It was also to provide a lockable steel sliding gate at the front and clean the structure as the house is in ruins.
- Windhoek Property D
The property was reported to have been built in the 70s. It had been standing vacant since 2010. The house still had solid walls though extremely vandalised. The windows are broken, doors removed, furnishings like stoves, sinks cupboards, air conditioners, light fittings have been stolen. The swimming pool is neglected and the walls have graffiti writing on them showing that bad elements occupy the empty house. The area is a prime area with beautiful houses. One of the neighbours has built a tall wall near the empty house to protect his family after a number of burglaries occurred orchestrated by rogue elements squatting in the house.
The High Commission has proposed to Headquarters to build a 2.4 meters’ security walls at the front to prevent the property being used by trespassers. They would also provide a lockable steel sliding gate at the front. The house is in ruins and it would need to be cleaned.
- Windhoek Property E
The house was reported built in the 70s. On inspection it appeared as a property with two floors, with three garages, and with solid structure walls. It showed signs of neglect with peeling walls, unattended swimming pool. It was reported that the official who stayed in the house had vacated the building due to its recently discovered asbestos roofing and plumbing issues. Furthermore, the officer also complaint of scary monkeys and snakes that would often be found at the house after work. The property was still intact, beautiful and in a prime area. It needed urgent maintenance and repairs to render it habitable.
- Windhoek Property F
The inspection showed a solid and beautiful property standing vacant in a prime residential area. The structure of the walls was still strong and not much vandalism was noticed. The building is on a hill, though built lower than other properties on a slope. As a result, the other property owner on the hill, has built a wall with water drainage system emptying flood waters unto the state-owned property, causing dampness issues to the property. As a consequence of this situation, the Windhoek Municipality has condemned the property and declared it inhabitable as a health risk. The house was vacated in 2010, as the family of the official who stayed there suffered from recurring lung and respiratory infections.
- Windhoek Property G
The property was reported vacant since 2010. It is a beautiful house with a solid structure of walls, and situated at a prime area in Windhoek. The official who used to occupy the house had to move out due to recurring plumbing problems. The plumbing systems were reported as very old since the house was built in the 70s. The roof showed signs of leaking, areas of the house vandalised due to it being vacant; there were still some furniture items left behind in the property; and air conditioners were removed from the walls. A concern was raised whether the moving of assets was reflected as such in the Asset Register of the High Commission.
- Windhoek Property H
The property is at a corner of a street where most ambassadors live. The area is prime with a host of ambassadors and other VIPs residing in this area and the particular street. It was found that the structure of the building was still strong. It was found to be a beautifully designed house on a hill. However, the house is distastefully dilapidated, being at the beginning of a posh street, it appears as a sight for sore eyes and very embarrassing that it belongs to the South African Government. The High Commission reported that there have been complaints about the neglected nature of the building from the adjacent Ambassadors of Finland, United States and Switzerland.
The swimming pool is abundant, the paint on the parameter wall is peeling, the wall itself is cracked and falling; and it has exposed electrical wiring rendering it a fire hazard. It was reported that the one-time tenant vandalised it when requested to vacate the premises. Windows were broken, there were no doors, only wooden sheeting covering doorways, fittings were uprooted and stolen, cupboards were vandalised and pieces taken off, and the ceilings were removed. The property is simply in ruins as it was reported to have been vacant for almost 15 years.
- Windhoek Property I
Status: Vacant with squatters
The property is situated off a main street, on a hill overlooking the other properties and the traffic beneath the gate leading to the property. It is an embarrassment and a sight for sore eyes which no one would miss when travelling past the area. The house was reported to have been neglected for over 20 years. Those its wall structure is still strong, it was just appalling and extremely vandalised and dilapidated.
The surrounding areas are filthy, the white paint on the outside walls were peeling off; the Olympic size deep swimming pool was left uncovered and gaping as a trap into which young children could drown if there were floods. The windows are all broken; card boxes and textile sheeting is used to cover hollow doors and glassless windows; sanitary fixtures have been uprooted and stolen; and cupboards have been pulled off the walls and stolen.
The situation became pathetic and disgusting when the Oversight Committee delegation walked into the building. There were many young girls (possibly nine) with babies, seemingly staying there; and they claimed to be Namibians though they had a different accent. Each room was divided by curtains or sheets into partitions, so that in one room there would be two families. The worker who was supposed to be the one allocated the house was not even there anymore. There were no sanitary facilities, no water; and electricity wires were flying all over the place, endangering the structure if there would be a fire.
As if this was not enough, the Oversight Committee delegation as informed by the High Commission that there had been complaints and concerns about the vacant property by the neighbours for a long time. The local residents had reported that rogue elements were using the property as a hideout for illicit activities and storage for stolen goods and forbidden drugs. The High Commission pointed out that there existed a ‘Verbal Agreement’ with the immediate neighbour, the Nevis Legal Practitioners, who had been affected most by the situation. The agreement was that the lawyer would be allowed to house his staff members in the vacant dilapidated property, only for the purposes of wading off the rogue elements, and to prevent further destruction of the property.
- Windhoek Property J
The property was built in the 70s, and it still has strong walls structure. It is a beautiful house situated on a hill in a prime area. It was reported to have been vacant for three months, since the last occupant left in April 2018. There were still pieces of immovable furniture that still remained unattended in the house. It was reported to have serious plumbing issues, due to the fact that its plumbing is the originally installed in the 70s. There were sewerage problems, and the house is build lower than the ones nearby, as a result the water drainage system from the neighbours was emptying water into the premises and causing water damage problems. The official who previously stayed in the house, informed the Oversight Committee delegation that the pool walls were collapsing and water pipes bursting all the times, to the extent that he once received a R50 000 water bill from the municipality.
- Windhoek Property K
The property had a strong wall structure, beautiful and located at a prime area. The house was built in the 70s, and it is still inundated with the old electrical and plumbing systems; there were constantly wall water pipe bursts because the systems are very old; the electric gate and security alarm system were not functioning properly; and there was very old furniture such as air conditioners, fridge, freezer, and the microwave.
The house was reported to have had challenges with termites and it looked like the walls in the main bedroom were sinking. The carpets were very old, and there were cracks on the walls in the living room, and the roof had signs of water leakage. The swimming pool was covered and not functional.
- Windhoek Property L
The property looked beautiful on a hill in a prime area and with strong walls structure. It had a swimming pool which was covered but not maintained. It is situated opposite the Chinese embassy residential properties which are covered behind a tall wall. The property is exposed with no high walls, the gate had an outdated gate motor which had no temper-free system. There were signs of a leaking roof in the living room; there were issues with the drainage system around the house; the boundary wall had cracks and paint was peeling; the electric fence and the house alarm were reported not functioning, as a result exposing the officer to security risks. The Chinese embassy was said to have requested that the boundary wall around this property be build taller on the side bordering the Chinese property. The bathrooms needed refurbishing and the plumbing system is very old. The ‘guest quarters’ were regarded humanly degrading as the shower head was directly over the toilet seat.
- Windhoek Property M
The property was built in the 70s and was in good condition and beautiful with solid wall structure and new tile flooring. The boundary wall shared with a neighbour was about to fall over, apparently the neighbour, being a pensioner, declared that he would not have money to repair it, creating a security risk to the government property. There were pieces of old furniture stored in the outside rooms/flat. The flooring was new, alarm system was working and air conditioners operational. Minor maintenance was needed to keep the pool clean and the braai area functional.
- Windhoek Property N
The house was built in the 70s and still has strong solid wall structure, its beautiful and in a prime area. The plumbing infrastructure was outdated and the toilet basin broken. The floors were newly done and generally the house in good condition.
- Windhoek Property O
The house was built in the 70s and still has strong solid wall structure, its beautiful and in a prime area. The drainage outlet piping in the kitchen was left open and letting out smelling fumes. The air conditioning was not working and tiles were loose in the lounge. There were general problems of the plumbing system and the electrical wiring as the house is very old. The electric gate was not modernised. There had been issues with termites, and those were beginning to be addressed.
- Windhoek Property P
The flat is in a prime area, and in a secluded block of good solid properties. The flat was supposed to have been disposed of in 2013. The sale could not go through and the flat was renovated and put on the market for renting. The staircase needed to be renovated. The monthly rentals collected amount to R10 000.
- Meeting with the Mayor of Windhoek
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation highlighted that the purpose of the engagements with the Mayor of Windhoek was to convey a symbolic gesture to the Government and the people of the Republic of Namibia, that indeed South Africa was determined and committed to address the issue of properties standing unattended for many years. This was indeed a public relations exercise aimed at protecting the good historical relations between South Africa and Namibia.
The Chairperson expressed profound regret that the state-owned properties were in such a state that the whole delegation was highly embarrassed by what they saw. Honourable Masango said he could only imagine the impact of these properties on the value of nearby properties in the beautiful and clean City of Windhoek. He went further to elaborate on the reasons why the Joint Oversight visit had to be in Namibia first. The reasons stipulated were that South Africa acted as a Governor of the then South West Africa from 1919-1990, hence it had many properties in Namibia. The other reason was because the Committee was processing a Bill which addresses state owned properties abroad. Honourable Masango requested the Mayor of Windhoek to feel free to make his contribution towards a lasting solution with regard to these properties. Furthermore, he pointed out that President Hage Geingob had whispered to Honourable Minister Lindiwe Sisulu when in Namibia with President Ramaphosa in March 2018, that something be done with the state-owned properties in Namibia.
Honourable Mmemezi went further to elaborate that South Africa was in the process of consolidating an Asset Register. He urged the Mayor to share information on properties of South Africa in Namibia, so as to compare with information in own Asset Register.
The Mayor of Windhoek responded that he was indeed happy for the Joint Oversight visit as it was of historical importance, to implement the political aspirations of both Former President Nujoma and the late Former President Nelson Mandela. He further expressed hope that the matter pertaining to properties would soon be addressed, more so because the ruling party was planning on a Land conference towards the end of 2018. He reminded the delegation that the land issue was a very sensitive issue, hence any decision with regard to land should be considered both politically and administratively. With regard to the properties, it was confirmed that the High Commission was paying municipal accounts on the properties, thus proving ownership. The Mayor undertook to share his recommendations on the South African government properties in Windhoek.
- Oversight Committee delegation de-briefing session
The de-briefing session was held with the High Commission, where the delegation expressed their views on the situation in Windhoek, informed by what they had observed during the inspection in loco.
During the inspection, a number of inconsistencies were observed on the application of the existing policies by the High Commission and indeed the two parent departments responsible for properties abroad.
It was also asked whether the properties both in Windhoek and Walvis Bay were duly registered as belonging to the South African Government. The response was that there were two barcodes that attest to the ownership of properties by the South African Government (Department of Public Works). The copies of Title Deeds have since been submitted to the delegation.
A full report was requested as to how the Municipality of Windhoek arrived at a decision to condemn the house at Windhoek Property F as inhabitable due to dampness. The High Commission confirmed that there was such a report and it would be availed the delegation for their information.
The Oversight Committee delegation had asked for photographs of the properties, especially to see what the Windhoek Property C looked like before being torched to ashes. The High Commission has since shared the required pictures of the said properties.
The Oversight Committee delegation had noted and demanded an explanation with regard to removal and moving of assets (movable) from one location to another, whether proper inventories were kept and such items properly reflected in the Asset Register. The High Commission was able to give proof of authorised movement of five air conditioners to different locations. The other air conditioners in the vandalised houses could not be accounted for.
With regard to whether the High Commission was following any maintenance plans for the purpose of maintaining the properties, it was responded that there was maintenance plan for minor repairs. However, funding had not been availed for a while, resulting in further deterioration of the properties. The plans were explained to include building walls around the properties in Walvis Bay, and installing rust proof security gates. The High Commission pointed out that it has since send to the Department, a motivation and terms of reference for engaging a project management service related to renovations and repairs, together with options for rehabilitating the properties in Windhoek and Walvis Bay, there has been no response yet.
The other proposal sent to the Department related to the issue of the staff complement, especially the Locally Recruited Personnel (LRPs). The issue being that because of the huge property portfolio in Namibia, there was a need to augment the LRPs maintenance component to conduct some regular maintenance activities. This, it was argued, would assist that properties were not left neglected to the extent that they are now inhabitable.
It was further argued that if the reason of cost-cutting measures would be the one advanced against employing more LRPs, then consideration be taken that already the Mission is paying an amount of plus-minus R2 000 000 per annum for municipal fees and security for state-owned properties in Walvis Bay and Windhoek, because they were neglected to maintain. Even if a private public partnership model is preferred, there would still be a need for minor maintenance work at the properties from time to time.
Other than this maintenance component of LRPs needed, the High Commissioner had raised concerns on the general conduct at the workplace by the LRPs. There were allegations of money to the tune of R260 000, stolen in the visa section.
The High Commission undertook to seal off the deep gaping swimming pool at Windhoek Property I. Also the rentals terms for the people staying in the house would be referred to a professional company to assist with rental contracts.
With regard to movable assets dumped in the storage rooms, the High Commission would sort out broken furniture and salvage whatever could still be used, and accordingly update the Asset Register. Items would not again be moved around without a proper inventory.
A concern was communicated to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, on the need to revisit and capacitate the position of Corporate Services Managers (CSM) in the Missions. It was said currently they were expected to perform both financial, supply chain, asset management and other administrative functions without adequate training. This situation was said to have resulted in many queries by the Auditor-General.
With regard to whether the High Commission practised the ‘Batho Pele’ principle, the High Commissioner responded that the office abides by the values of the democratic government at home. They are faced with very dishonest, insulting and undisciplined LRPs. At the same time, it was pointed out that seemingly the culture of theft is created by the LRPs because of the low salaries the Mission pays them compared to similar Missions in Windhoek.
A great concern was raised regarding the fact that Windhoek Property C was burnt and the arson was not reported to the police to investigate. The High Commission could not respond convincingly on this matter.
The representatives of the Department of Public Works expressed a view that the visit was an eye opener for them especially because they had in the past authorised disposal of properties abroad, without having physically seen them. The further pointed out that the disposal committee needs political will and executive support to execute its mandate.
- Inspection of state-owned properties in Walvis Bay
The closing of the Consular offices in Walvis Bay resulted in the state-owned properties in this area remaining vacant and vulnerable. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation remained responsible to safeguard and maintain these properties from its budget baseline. The properties are vandalised to the extreme, with all systems and the interior finishing being removed, and rogue elements occupying the premises with impunity.
- Meeting with the Mayor of Walvis Bay
The Oversight Committee delegation met with the Deputy Mayor of Walvis Bay, Ms Penelope Martin with her delegation. She apologised on behalf of the Mayor, who had to join the President of Namibia, H.E. Mr Hage Geingob in Swakopmund. Honourable Masango accepted the apology of the Mayor and extended a message of condolences to the Deputy Mayor after learning about a loss of a colleague. He went further to explain the reasons for being in Walvis Bay, which relate to the Bill.
Honourable Mmemezi added an apology on behalf of the delegation, for the properties that were not adding a good image to the City of Walvis Bay and its residents. He further assured the Deputy Mayor that Parliament would ensure that the executive took action to address the issue.
The High Commissioner reiterated that the parties concerned should pursue the administrative route to effectively deal with these matters, and continue to cement the good relations between the two countries. He expressed hope that the properties could be used for the economic development of Walvis Bay, and not as a burden to the people of Walvis Bay.
The Deputy Mayor expressed her happiness for the presence of the Oversight Committee delegation to address the issue of vacant and dilapidated properties.
It was pointed out that the High Commission appointed an Estate Agent in 2000, and the City was happy because the properties were put on sale. However, the process soon halted. The local residents were very disappointed as criminals were using the properties for criminal activities and endangering the communities. The Deputy Mayor and her team wished the delegation well and hoped the matter would be finalised.
- State-owned properties at Walvis Bay
9.2.1 Walvis Bay Properties A, B, and C
All the above properties had been vacant since the 2007 and are extremely vandalised. The structure walls were strong and intact, but the houses in ruins. Windows and doors were removed; the trespassers used the properties as thoroughfares and hideouts for their illicit activities. There were no walls around nor security gates protecting these properties, the steel burglar-proofing had rusted beyond recognition because of the sea water weather conditions. There were obscene graffiti all over the interior and exterior walls of the properties.
The roof on all houses were in a state of despicable rot, and the walls have accumulated salt due to neglect without painting. There were no windows, kitchen and bathroom ware, and the plumbing and electrical systems were completely destroyed. The neighbours were reported to be feeling insecure, because of the constantly break-ins and the illicit activities taking place in these houses.
The houses are in a prime area, and Walvis Bay is growing as a small to medium harbour. The High Commission has proposed to build security walls around these properties, and provide steel lockable rust proof sliding gates at the front, to prevent trespassers from gaining access. The Estate Agents in Walvis Bay were of the opinion that if these properties were to be comprehensively renovated and leased out, they could attract a very good income.
The High Commission was of the opinion that it could make business sense to get a company in Walvis Bay which could be interested in renovating these properties and then with a mandate of say 5-10 years maintain and rent them out. The rental income therefrom would cover renovation and maintenance costs whilst providing a monthly income for the Government too. The High Commission has since engaged the Walvis Bay Community Policing Forum to check on the properties from time to time.
9.2.2 Walvis Bay Property D
The property is rented out by the J&B Estates in Walvis Bay and the Joint Oversight delegation could not access it. From outside, the building looked much presentable than the others because of being occupied. It was reported to have been vacant for 9 years before being rented out through an estate agency for a minimal fee of R3000. The delegation sought more information on the terms of the rental agreement. The views of the High Commission are the same as with the other three properties.
- Observations and Findings
During the deliberations on the inspection in loco and the High Commission’s specific issues, the Joint Oversight delegation made the following observations and findings:
10.1 It was the first time that a solely international relations inclined oversight, beyond the borders of South Africa, took place, amid the challenges brought about by the current Parliamentary Oversight Model.
10.2 It was also a first, that a Joint Oversight Visit was taken in the same context of conducting oversight on issues of service delivery located beyond the borders of South Africa.
10.3 It was again a first time in 20 plus years, that Parliament is seized with the contentious issue of the management of state-owned properties abroad.
10.4 The conditions of the South African properties in Walvis Bay and Windhoek are a source of diplomatic embarrassment and have caused a representational risk to the image of the country.
10.5 The concerns expressed by the President of the Republic of Namibia, His Excellency Hage Geingob, the Mayors of Walvis Bay and Windhoek respectively, and the neighbouring residents to state-owned properties, that these properties were devaluing other people’s properties are indeed so.
10.6 Due to the nature of mandates of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and that of the Department of Public Works, Parliament would need to seek an adjudicative determination to take the process of management of state-owned properties abroad into the future.
10.7 The inspection in loco divided state-owned properties in Windhoek into three (3) categories. Three (3) properties, namely the Windhoek Properties C, H and I, were in a very dilapidated state.
10.8 Twelve (12) properties were found to be in a good (acceptable) condition, namely, the Windhoek Properties A, B, E, F, G, J, K, L, M, N, O and P.
10.9 One (1) property was found to be in a mediocre condition, namely, the Windhoek Property D.
10.10 The three (3) properties in Walvis Bay were found to be in a vandalised and mediocre condition, namely, the Walvis Bay Properties A, B and C.
10.11 One (1) property, the Walvis Bay Property D, was found to be in good and acceptable condition from outside. Being rented, the delegation could not gain access.
10.12 The explanations rendered on the terms of rental agreements between the High Commission and current tenants in the Windhoek Property I and in Walvis Bay Property D were regarded unsatisfactory.
10.13 The High Commission is of the view that the all state-owned properties could be salvaged through engaging a private public partnerships model on the main.
10.14 All the state-owned properties are on prime land, if diligently maintained, they could be a good investment.
10.15 The Department of Public Works did not take timely decisions to dispose of state-owned properties in Namibia. These properties have become a safe haven for rogue elements.
10.16 The Department of Public Works did not carry out the required major maintenance of the structures of the buildings in Namibia, resulting in good properties running into ruins.
10.17 The Department of International Relations and Cooperation had limited capacity and resources to undertake basic maintenance on the properties, resulting in further deterioration of state-owned properties in Namibia.
10.18 Due to lack of maintenance of state-owned properties that could be repaired and made suitable for human settlement, the High Commission has had to rent accommodation for three officials costing the amount of N$90 000 per month, and R1 080 000 00 per annum, contributing to wasteful expenditure.
10.19 Due to the lack of decision-making by the Department of Public Works, to continue with disposal of identified properties, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation is paying for municipal fees and security and cleaning expenses for all the vacant state-owned properties in Walvis Bay and Windhoek, costing about N$700 000 per annum contributing to fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
10.20 The position of Corporate Services Managers (CSM) in the Missions, was currently expected to perform both financial, supply chain, asset management and other administrative functions without adequate training.
10.21 Due to the huge property portfolio in Namibia, there was a need to augment the LRPs maintenance component, and have a maintenance team, to conduct some regular and basic maintenance activities. The maintenance team model at the South African Mission in Maputo was given as an example.
10.22 There were noted inconsistencies with application of policy in the decisions that the Department and the High Commission took relating to movement of assets and human resources matters.
10.23 Movable assets in the storage were not properly kept, and therefore not included in the Asset Register.
10.24 It was not clear whether National Treasury was made aware of the redundant stock of movable assets, in order to authorise disposal where needed.
10.25 The High Commission was experiencing challenges with regard to management of Locally Recruited Personnel (LRPs). It was also noted that the LRPs salaries were regarded not competitive.
10.26 There is a huge white steel cross erected at the entrance of each of the two properties in Walvis Bay, which symbolises ‘gravesites’. It is suspected that these were erected by the neighbours in protest.
10.27 All the 20 state-owned properties are duly registered under the Government of South Africa, with valid Title Deeds which prove beyond reasonable doubt its full ownership of these properties.
10.28 A full report has since been received on how the Municipality of Windhoek arrived at a decision to condemn the house at Windhoek Property F as inhabitable due to dampness.
10.29 Both Mayors of Walvis Bay and of Windhoek wish to see action taken on the state of South African properties in Namibia.
10.30 The High Commission and the Oversight Committee delegation are hopeful that the Joint oversight visit would produce good results.
It was the very first time that a solely international relations inclined oversight, beyond the borders of South Africa, took place. This situation is one of the challenges brought about by the current Parliamentary Oversight Model.
The conditions of extreme neglect of the South African government properties in Walvis Bay and Windhoek are indeed a source of diplomatic embarrassment, and have caused a representational and reputational risk to the image of the country. Both departments neglected their fiduciary duties to either maintain or authorise disposal of unoccupied state-owned properties in Walvis Bay and Windhoek.
As a result of the neglect of respective mandates, there has been resultant fruitless and wasteful expenditure around the upkeep of the vacant state-owned properties. A number of official communication between the High Commission in Namibia and the Head Office in Pretoria, to impress upon the Department of Public Works the deteriorating rate of the properties has been noted. Nonetheless, there has been no evidence of a deliberate action to address the challenges with these properties.
Due to the nature of mandates of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and that of the Department of Public Works, Parliament would need to seek an adjudicative determination to take the process of management of state-owned properties abroad into the future.
The driving factors are such that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation has a physical presence in the 124 South African Missions abroad, and know the local conditions and regulations around the built industry. Each Head of Mission is held accountable and has the overall responsibility to the receiving state in terms of the welfare or otherwise of state-owned properties in the concerned country. This Department hasn’t got enough capital nor in-house built environment personnel to monitor structural defects in the properties.
On the other hand, the Department of Public Works has zero presence in the 124 South African Missions abroad. As a department responsible for all government properties both locally and abroad, it has resident built environment capacity. However, this department would have limited resources to cover both local and overseas property portfolios as and when required.
The Joint Oversight visit to Namibia should be received as a pilot oversight on state-owned properties abroad. It has revealed that without such visits, state-owned properties abroad may deteriorate into a terrible state of dilapidation without the Government being aware.
Having undertaken the Joint Oversight visit to Walvis Bay and Windhoek, the Oversight Committee delegation recommends that the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and the Minister of Public Works should consider the following and report on progress within three months of adoption of this report by the National Assembly:
- The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and the Minister of Public Works should consider the future of custodianship of state-owned properties abroad and jointly report on their decision to Parliament.
- Undertake a property stock-taking exercise to ensure completeness of the Government Immovable Assets Register (GIAR) of all state-owned properties around the world. This should be undertaken through collaboration of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, National Treasury and the Department of Public Works.
- The maintenance budget for the High Commission in Namibia should be increased to allow for the renovation and repair of the properties earmarked as the Windhoek Property A and the Windhoek Property B; and that this should be considered in the Mid-term Budget Review.
- The maintenance budget for the High Commission in Namibia should be increased to allow for the renovation and repair of the all properties earmarked for occupancy by transferred officials; and that this should be considered in the Mid-term Budget Review.
- Immediately dispatch, in consultation with the Department of Public Works, a built environment technical team of the Department of Public Works, the local built environment professionals identified by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in Namibia, and officials from National Treasury to conduct a joint assessment of all the unoccupied state-owned properties in Namibia, and recommend repairs and renovations with the aim to generate income in the short term.
- Dispatch, in consultation with the Department of Public Works, and in accordance with the State Land Disposal Act 1961, a built environment technical team of the Department of Public Works (DPW), local built environment professionals identified by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in the countries where the concerned Missions are situated, and officials from National Treasury, to conduct a joint assessment of all the vacant state-owned properties across the globe, and recommend a cause of action with the aim to generate income in the long term.
- Investigate the neglect of fiduciary duties by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation towards allocating funds for the minor maintenance of properties in Namibia since 2009.
- Investigate the neglect of fiduciary duties by the Department of Public Works towards taking decisions to dispose of derelict properties in Namibia since 2009.
- Conduct proper investigations on why the arson on the Windhoek Property C was not reported to the police.
- Upgrade the plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in the properties where it is required.
- Revamp the electricity station at the Windhoek Property A as it is a health risk and dangerous fire hazard.
- Ensure a common policy base governing the activities of Missions, on human resources allocations, assets and maintenance of both movable and immovable assets. Same standards should apply in all Missions in maintaining a similar representational and reputational image of South Africa across the globe.
- Revisit and capacitate the position of Corporate Services Managers (CSM) in all the Missions, in order to take care of operational matters.
- Ensure that any disposal of state-owned properties abroad is in accordance with the State Land Disposal Act 1961, and is in alignment with the value of the property concerned and the local conditions in the foreign state where the state-owned property is located.
- Following the stipulations in the GIAMA and the existing disposal policies, the DPW in consultation with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation should initiate a process of developing country-specific disposal strategies. The two departments should ensure that all forms of disposal are taken into consideration, including sale, exchange, donation, public private partnerships and leasing.
- Consider the issue of human resource challenges facing the High Commission in Namibia, to enhance capacity to manage the huge property portfolio in Namibia by replicating the model that is in use at the South African Mission in Maputo.
- Ensure that any disposal of state properties and land parcels abroad should be disposed according to Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA, 2007) and the State Land Disposal Act (SLDA, 1961).
- Investigate alleged misconduct by the Locally Recruited Personnel (LRPs) and ensure that consequence management processes against those responsible are implemented.
- Investigate all incidents causing fruitless and wasteful expenditure due to the neglected state-owned properties in Namibia, and ensure that consequence management processes against those responsible are implemented.
- Establish the terms of the rental agreement for the Walvis Bay Property D, in order to receive value for money rentals.
- Undertake the necessary steps to remove the current illegal tenants that continue to reside at the Windhoek Property I in spite of the property being unhabitable.
- Create an inventory of, and register, all the movable assets in the storeroom at the High Commission and those left in the residences.
- Request National Treasury for authority to dispose of the damaged movable assets in terms of the PFMA and Treasury Regulations relevant to movable assets.
To the National Assembly
- The Parliamentary Oversight Model should allow the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation to have more regular oversight visits to South African Missions abroad, in order to have a holistic approach on the performance of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. This should include conducting inspection in loco on state-owned properties abroad to ensure that they are fit for purpose, maintained according to each Mission’s annual maintenance plans and reflect the representational and reputational image of the Republic of South Africa.
- Parliamentary Oversight Model should allow the Portfolio Committee on Public Works to conduct in loco inspections to state-owned properties abroad, in order to ensure oversight over how the Property Management and Trading Entity (PMTE) is ensuring the fitness for intended use of the structures of the buildings at foreign missions. Inspections should include oversight over the implementation of user and custodian asset management plans as per the GIAMA of 2007.
- The two Portfolio Committees should be allowed to conduct joint oversight visits to the South African Missions in the countries where the Government of South Africa still has vacant state-owned properties.
Report to be considered.
 Department of International Relations and Cooperation Strategic Plan 2015-2020
 Section 4 of the Government Immovable Asset Management Act (No 19 of 2007), makes the Minister of Public Works the custodian of all “immovable assets that vest in the national government, except in cases where custodial functions were assigned to other Ministers by virtue of legislation before the commencement of this Act;” The GIAMA states that the establishment and management of the GIAR across the three spheres of government is the responsibility of the DPW as custodian department.
 Annual Performance Plan 2018/19, Department of International Relations and Cooperation
 Estimates of National Expenditure 2018
 Annual Performance Plan 2018/19, Department of International Relations and Cooperation
No related documents