21/10/09. Public Protector, Ms Thuli Madonsela at her offices in Hillcrest. Picture: Damaris Helwig

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has criticised property owners for inflating lease prices for buildings used by government departments, saying that her office was still inundated with cases of irregular pricing and maladministration in this regard.

Madonsela who was addressing property owners at the annual congress of the South Africa Property Owners Association in Durban, also pleaded with property owners to be whistle blowers against irregular tender processes.

“You can’t just look the other way, you can’t just be observers. You must yourself promote good governance,” she said.

She told property owners to report bribes coming from government officials.

Madonsela said she understands that property owners must make money but they should do so in a sustainable manner and in a way that could benefit citizens.

“You cannot loot from the state and call that business,” she said.

“Often you find that these leased building are in a dilapidating state. It is then the government’s duty to renovate them, however, it is the owner who benefit from those renovations.”

She said although most of the cases were coming from the construction of social housing known as RDP houses, leasing maladministration in government departments was still a concern.

Madonsela also spoke of escalating prices coming from capital projects involving government and big companies.

She said her office has started an investigations on the escalation of the Gautrain price project.

“We want to draw lesson from the investigation’s findings, we want to know what had pushed prices beyond control.”

Meanwhile former president F W de Klerk who was also part of the guest speakers warned that the policy discussion papers that the ANC (African National Congress) released in March threatens property rights.

He said if private property was undermined it would “kill much of the economic activity that we currently see in our streets and in our cities.”

He said the ANC was evidently intent on implementing controversial land reforms policies which would seriously undermine the property rights of farmers.

De Klerk was also concerned that the ANC might target pensions and life assurance savings.

He said the state plans were directed at regulating a substantial part of public and private retirement and life assurance funds so that these funds can be invested in the financial instrument of state owned enterprises (SOEs) or development finance institutions.

“Any attempt to erode the property rights of South Africans on the basis of their race would have very serious implications for the national consensus on which we have operated since 1994.”

He added that the ANC claims that property relations were still the same as they were before 1994 but it was not the case as at least 35 percent of the country’s land is owned by black South African or by the government.

He warned that if government adopted the anti-private property measures there would be seriously negative consequences for all South Africans.

“Foreign and domestic investment would dry up, the most productive individuals from all our communities would no longer be able or willing to contribute to economic growth and the government would receive less tax.”