King Goodwill Zwelithini File picture: Mandla Mkhize/Independent Media
Durban - Members of Parliament were on Thursday shocked by shoddy workmanship and collapsing infrastructure at the multimillion- rand “cultural centre” that is supposed to accommodate thousands of maidens who attend the annual reed dance.

The MPs, from the national portfolio committee on arts and culture, went on a site visit of the centre being built at King Goodwill Zwelithini’s Enyokeni Palace in Nongoma on Thursday.

According to the plans, the R600 million project is going to consist of a museum, dormitory for the maidens, an amphitheatre and a playground.

The members are now demanding to know what happened to R130m that has already been pumped into the project, adding that “outright corruption has taken place”.

The site visit followed numerous reports of slow-moving work and spiralling costs.

The members alleged that their inspection revealed poor workmanship, with infrastructure already falling apart without having ever been used, barely two years after it was built.

Zwelithini also registered his disappointment with the work, especially after allegations that the cultural site was “his palace”.

The complex had been billed as a tourist attraction that would serve to enhance the stature of Umkhosi Womhlanga, and provide safe bathing areas for the maidens who attend the event.

However, the project has since courted controversy, with reports that the construction cost could climb to R1 billion.

ANC MP Winston Rabotapi said the committee had been lied to.

“There is some corruption going on there. The department is not telling us the truth. What we have seen and what we have been told are not the same. There is a lot of shoddy work.

“The water infrastructure they put there, I am not sure how much water it will hold. I believe more water will be dripping out,” Rabotapi said.

He continued: “The arena is poorly built, the walls are already cracking. It cannot be that the wall that is just two years old is already cracking. I wonder what kind of professionals they used.

“We will be summoning the department to Parliament to come and explain this,” Rabotapi said.

When contacted for comment by The Mercury on Thursday, the department said it required more time to provide a response.

The DA’s Allen Grootboom, a member of the portfolio committee, said the government had been cheated.

“What we have seen here is disturbing. For the R130m that has been spent, all they have to show for it is the amphitheatre and water tanks.

“The prices here were definitely inflated, as the report that was conducted on the forensic investigation said. The work was of poor quality and there was no value for money,” said Grootboom.

He said it was disturbing that, just two years since the amphitheatre was built, it was already showing signs of cracking.

“The water is already leaking. There seems to have been no maintenance done,” he said.

The chairperson of the committee, Xoliswa Tom, said: “We will now go back as the committee and discuss if what we saw is (worth) the money that has been spent, and we will draft our report”.

Zwelithini said in a statement that he would like to see the matter being investigated.

“As you will witness yourselves, there is no building there; some parts have concrete, the stadium is partially built with some fencing. We do not know what or how much the government spent, because they were not obliged to inform me what they had spent money on or how much they had spent,” said the statement.

Zwelithini said while he supported the probe, he also believed that the centre would bring dignity to the maidens.

“The nature of a democratic developmental state can be measured not only against the principles of fairness, inclusivity and accountability, but also by the extent to which they respond to the needs of the people. This development should be seen as the government’s response to the needs of thousands of maidens and rural people,” said the king.

Attempts to get the name of the company that received the tender to build the centre were unsuccessful on Thursday night.

The Mercury