Anger over R6.6m Mamelodi car wash flop
Pretoria - Two years after the launch of the multi-million rand Reitiretse Car Wash in Mamelodi, the dream sold by the then ANC-led City of Tshwane to the community has still not come into fruition.
The initiative was part of a package of projects being implemented by the city as part of its drive to revitalise the township economy, and thus reduce the high levels of unemployment and poverty.
The ANC project promised to create economic opportunities that would ensure meaningful participation by the previously marginalised in the mainstream economy.
The R6.6 million, state-of -the-art car wash was punted as a project to boost the township’s economy and create more than 50 jobs in its first year of opening.
More jobs would be generated as it continued to operate, the city said, but today the premises remain closed, with the structures falling apart and the locked gates showing no sign of life.
Dilapidated structures are clearly visible: the roof has caved in and part of the fence is collapsing. Some of the floodlights are damaged and there was no security personnel in sight when the Pretoria News went there earlier this week.
Disappointed residents of Mamelodi said they were sold a pipe dream, their hopes for jobs and a city car wash for their vehicles were dashed because the car wash, near the main Tsamaya Road, never started operating.
During its launch in 2014, then mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa boasted of a project bringing an opportunity for smaller car wash owners to join a major enterprise.
It would also be an opportunity for other entrepreneurs to cash in.
Angry residents said nothing ever happened after the launch, a big affair officiated over by Ramokgopa, his officials and Gauteng Premier David Makhura.
“What is worse is that we are being kept in the dark about operations. They also promised to create jobs for the community when they were building it,” said an angry resident.
They said they had looked forward to the economic activities, which, over and above the core business of washing cars, were to include a kiosk; laundromat and a hairdressing salon.
Customers at the facility were also promised access to free wi-fi connectivity. The project was also meant to enhance water preservation through state-of-the-art water recycling technology which reduces water leakages to the bare minimum and optimises efficient water usage.
“Sputla (Ramokgopa) said he would support existing entrepreneurs in the car wash space with dedicated land, infrastructure and free wi-fi connectivity in addition to associated amenities that would contribute towards the success of their businesses, such as a chesa nyama,” said Meisie Nkambule, a stall owner near the car wash.
She said Ramokgopa committed to bringing city’s vehicle fleet to the car wash on a weekly basis.
Nkambule said several smaller car wash owners suffered as they were moved away from the Reitiretse premises where they used to do business.
When it was designed, the project brought together selected existing car wash entrepreneurs under the umbrella of a single co-operative.
Lucky Khumalo, another car wash owner, said he did not support the city’s plan as it posed a threat to existing businesses. “Why am I not surprised by this. I saw this coming a mile away. They should have just invested in the small car washes around the city instead of building a monopoly car wash which is laying dormant,” he said.
The location where the car wash was built used to be a dumping site.
Walter Lerumo cleaned up the site and opened his own car wash.
At the time, car wash owners accused the city of failing to consult them about plans to build the mega car wash and explain the impact it would have on them.
The controversy around the project and the millions injected into it saw the DA weighing in and expressing the party's disgust.
“Sputla’s infamous car wash in Mamelodi, cost R6.6 million yet failed to create sustainable jobs and was, in fact, used to store and distribute ANC posters during the election,” DA spokesperson, Phumzile Van Damme, said.
Mayoral spokesperson Sam Mgobozi on Wednesday said the car wash was simply a vanity project by the former administration.
He explained that the car wash had been vandalised and was now dysfunctional. “The city is currently considering a process of renovating it so that it may be re-purposed into a facility that can truly benefit the community and not for the purposes of resurrecting a vanity project.
“We are still assessing what it should be re-purposed as, and whether there is value for money to refurbish it at this stage,” said Mgobozi.
Asked when it is likely to be open again, Mgobozi replied: “The operation and management model has now been reviewed by the new DA leadership. We will then consider the way forward.”