Cape Town -111122. A bird's eye view of the CTICC, the Westin Grand and the Customs House in the harbour. Pic: Jason Boud

Cape Town - The land deal around an extension to the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) has been declared legal by the public protector.

In March, the ANC raised concerns about the deal, claiming the market value of the land was R50 million, but the city was paying more than R100m in its purchase from media company Naspers.

The ANC said this highlighted a “questionable relationship” between the DA-run city and Naspers shareholders. However, the city has denied any wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, the deputy mayor of Cape Town, Ian Nielson, said the findings were “a clear vindication of the city’s belief that the ANC’s complaint on this matter was vexatious and driven by petty politics”.

“Most importantly, the public protector found that the deal was in the best interests of the city, that the purchase price was reasonable and that there was no evidence of any individual improperly benefiting from the deal.”

In the findings, the public protector made the following findings:

* That the transaction for the purchase of Erf 246 Roggebaai is found to be above board and to be generally of benefit to the public.

* That the purchase price of Erf 246 for R106 000 000 is R2 000 000 more than the initial valuation that was obtained by the CTICC on August 20, 2010, and R1 000 000 more than the subsequent updated valuation. Reports or allegations that the value of the relevant property was no more than R50 000 000, were not substantiated by the evidence obtained.

* That no evidence of collusion could be found between the city and Naspers, to short-change taxpayers.

* That no evidence could be found to substantiate the allegation that individuals improperly benefited from the transaction to purchase Erf 246 Roggebaai.

However, the public protector also found that “the city, as the purchaser in this transaction, failed to take charge of the negotiations from the outset leading to the sales agreement. This failure constituted maladministration”.

In response to the latter, Neilson noted “that while the initial negotiations with Naspers were conducted by Convenco, the relevant city officials, who have the oversight role over Convenco, were involved at that early stage”.

“It was only once the decision was taken that the city would purchase the land, rather than it be purchased by Convenco, that the city’s property management department was authorised to become involved in the process.”

The city promised to adhere to a full internal investigation, as demanded by the public protector.

Cape Argus