Durban - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is investigating corruption allegations centred around the multimillion-rand upgrades to the uMzimkhulu Memorial Hall on the KZN south coast as well as other complaints laid by residents.
The hall refurbishments have dragged on for the past five years and already cost the council close to R16 million, with more to come.
ANC councillor Sindiso Magaqa, who was critically injured in a shooting incident in July and died last month, had demanded an investigation into the project.
It’s believed his murder is related to his calls for investigations into corruption. Two other ANC councillors were seriously injured in the same attack.
The project is now on its second contractor, the first, Loyiso Consultants Civils, having left because, according to the municipality it had “lacked capacity”.
The company had already been paid R10m of the initial budget of R17.9m.
The second contractor was appointed last year at a cost of R14m, increasing the estimated total cost to R24m. The company has already been paid R6m.
When The Mercury visited the site last Wednesday - there was no work taking place and there were just two people on site, one of them a safety officer.
The building, when completed, will have three storeys. The first floor seemed complete and the second partially done.
Spokesperson for the public protector, Cleopatra Mosana, confirmed that their office had launched an investigation on September 21.
“(It’s) not only a firm of architects and contractors that were contacted, those who are still involved in the project have been contacted to provide information about involvement and participation. These private entities are co-operating,” she said.
Attempts to contact some of the contractors were unsuccessful. The number listed under Loyiso Consultants Civils seems to have been disconnected and the second contractor’s number rang unanswered.
Another company involved said it would not be commenting on the matter.
Willie Mgcina, the spokesperson for the municipality said: “There is communique with the PP but it is not only about this hall, there are other allegations that the community has made.”
He said there had been numerous investigations into the hall.
“The Treasury has sent a team which was here for a week investigating that hall and Cogta has done the same.”
Mgcina said the municipality was satisfied with the progress made on the hall.
“There have been delays in building that has led to the frustration of the community members and we understand their frustration.
“The delays are not because there has been corruption. We had issues with the contractor who struggled with the project and we had to appoint a new contractor, and that process takes about a year.
“The memorial hall falls under the Amafa heritage organisation and when we build we have to comply with their regulations,” he said.
Thabiso Zulu, Magaqa’s friend, said he had also been contacted by the Public Protector.
“We welcome the initiative by the PP and we are aware she is not the only one investigating. We welcome any investigation into this matter.”
Mzolisi Ndobe, ANC councillor, and the secretary of the Umzimkhulu ANC sub-region, disputed that Magaqa may have been killed because of the questions he was asking about the hall project.
“The speaker of the municipality was killed and there are other councillors that have been killed. Can we say that they have been killed for the hall?
“Comrade Magaqa came, he demanded that a forensic investigation be done into the hall. We could not conduct a forensic investigation and secondly, if there was a forensic investigation the work would have to be stopped completely.
“We have received clean audits, won numerous awards for good governance. We do not mind the investigations.”