Durban - South Africa’s Minister of Public Works, Thembelani Nxesi, on Tuesday announced a ban on the sale of state land, saying the department had been “looted” by ignorant officials and private developers at a massive cost to taxpayers.
He said the government’s property portfolio was 10 times the size in value of those managed by the biggest private sector companies and because of “chaotic” management, little or no return on the assets was realised by the state.
“We are now professionalising the department. We are on a drive to get our assets back,” he said.
The minister added that privately-run properties on admiralty land in Durban were also under investigation.
Nxesi, who was in Durban on Tuesday to endorse the UIA world architects’ congress, which gets under way in the city on Sunday, said an asset register of immovable property belonging to the state had almost been completed and he was banning the sale of state land unless under stringent conditions.
“Between 1998 and 2000, in particular, our assets were looted. We did not have property management skills. We have given land to municipalities which we then find is sold to property developers.
“The next thing there is a shopping mall in the middle of the townships. When we transfer land to municipalities now, it is under strict conditions,” he said.
He said government buildings and properties were now being evaluated for what revenue they could bring in rather than disposing of them because they were dilapidated or required management.
“We have just had discussions with the harbour in Durban and have discovered people are running restaurants on admiralty land and paying just about nothing. We are bringing the right technical people into the department to run these things now,” he said.
Nxesi said the UIA conference was an opportunity for both the state and private sector to highlight the imbalances in the property and construction industries in the country.
“The industry in this country is worth billions, but it is not transformed. It is still the ‘old boys’ club.
“Just 24 percent of the architects in this country are black and only 9 percent are women,” he said.
The minister challenged those attending the congress to tackle issues which would “undo” apartheid spatial planning.
The official opening of the conference will take place on Monday at the Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre and will be on until August 7. For more information on the programme and fringe events visit www.uia2014durban.org