Pretoria - The multimillion rand Tshwane mayoral mansion, dubbed the “house of corruption” and located in the suburb of Muckleneuk will soon go under the hammer.
The mansion was inherited by the municipality from the defunct Pretoria City Council under the apartheid regime. It was for many years used as the official residence of the mayor of the capital.
However, after the DA wrested control of the city from the ANC, incumbent mayor Solly Msimanga refused to move into the property. He said he perceived it to be a “house of corruption”.
The imminent sale of the property was announced by Msimanga when he delivered the 2017 State of the Capital address on Thursday.
He said it would be sold to a successful bidder. But the sale of the mansion was unlikely to fetch the R12 million used in its controversial renovations by the ANC regime.
The alleged trail of corrupt activities became apparent after renovation costs initially set at R1.2m rocketed to R12m without any proper explanation.
The project was part of a R132m refurbishment project, which included the City Hall, commissioned under the watch of former mayor Kgosientso “Sputla” Ramokgopa.
Msimanga has since pressed criminal charges with the police against those implicated in a forensic investigation instituted under the ANC-led administration into the project.
Insiders at the municipality said the dramatic increase from the initial budget pitted Ramokgopa against some senior officials who questioned how and why the costs escalated.
Following a visit to the property soon after taking over the highest office in the city, Msimanga said the renovation left it in a bad condition due to poor workmanship.
For example, he mentioned cupboards, closet doors and garage doors that were falling apart.
“There are leakages in the plumbing. If you open certain taps, you have water flowing onto the floor,” Msimanga said.
He also said rainwater flowed into the house because of how badly the roof was tiled.
According to insiders, the same contractor procured to renovate the City Hall was also hired to revamp the house by the ANC administration.
Part of the renovation was to install the video conferencing room and make the house conducive for the mayor to host diplomats.
The renovations were generally seen as a way of making a working space for the mayor instead of beautifying the property, ANC insiders noted.
The property has double garages, the mayor’s office space, more than three bedrooms and a big swimming pool. Its main gate is always locked under a watchful eye of Tshwane Metro Police officers, who are stationed there 24 hours a day.
Msimanga said the money raised from the sale of the property would be injected into housing projects to benefit the poor.
While Msimanga didn’t name the price for the property, there were speculations that it could fetch from between R5m and R6m based on its current condition.
The Pretoria News understands that Msimanga was hoping to rake in about R8m from the property sale.
His spokesperson, Samkelo Mgobozi, said the city was still to undertake the evaluation process to determine the cost of the property.
Reacting to Msimanga’s announcement, the ANC leader in council, Mapiti Matsena, said the official opposition didn’t have any problem with the decision to sell the property.
He denied that Ramokgopa had used the house as his residence.
Matsena said Ramokgopa was advised not to use the house for residential purposes because he was entitled to a housing allowance.
The party’s advice to Ramokgopa stemmed from the Auditor-General’s report of 2010/11, which queried the use of the mayoral house by the mayor despite his receiving a housing allowance, Matsena said.
Former mayor Gwen Ramokgopa, Sputla’s aunt, was at the time the first citizen of the city.
She used the house for residential purposes.
“The council then took a resolution that the mayor must not stay in the house, but it must be used to host visitors,” Matsena said.
Matsena, a former strategic executive head of council secretariat, said the ANC-led administration decided to use the property as part of council assets.
“It is not like Msimanga is selling it because Kgosientso was staying in there,” Matsena said.