Allegations of bribery have emerged following the court judgment against the City of Joburg.
The high court in Joburg this month delivered a damning judgment against the city, which interdicted the Kliptown Extension 7 project to build 1631 low-cost houses and civil engineering infrastructure in the township - a project which is already two years behind schedule.
Judge Alan Dodson blamed the city for the project’s delays, resulting in a critical service delivery programme being stalled.
“Also relevant in this regard is the prejudice to the public interest insofar as the work which forms the subject matter for the initial and new tenders is low-cost housing for which there is a desperate need,” Judge Dodson said.
This relates to legal action undertaken by Umso Construction, the company which, according to the city’s own internal documents, was awarded the tender for the Soweto project worth R435561804 in April 2016.
However, in an email from mayor Herman Mashaba’s office sent to Umso’s chief executive Tollo Nkosi in March last year, the city said it had recommended the awarding of the contract to the company subject to its availing its valid tax clearance certificate.
But Judge Dodson found that the city had misled the court and Nkosi that Umso was only the recommended winner, where the court accepted that the company was awarded the contract.
Nkosi had alleged that Setlhabi Leso, the senior supply chain manager, had tried to solicit a bribe from the construction firm in order for the multimillion-rand contract to be handed to it.
Leso denied these claims in court papers, but Judge Dodson found that the city’s misleading statements to Umso and the court “lends weight to, and calls for, an investigation (into Umso’s bribery) allegations in this regard”.
The court action comes in the wake of widespread violent protests in Klipspruit in recent months over a lack of housing and allegations of corruption, including the death of two people in June last year during a riot.
The city, through its group legal and contracts department head Isaac Mogashoa, has conceded that the interdict would have an adverse effect on it.
“A delay in the provision of housing is likely to saddle the city with the risk of increased violent protests,” Mogashoa said in court papers.
Joburg had re-advertised the tender in March, and 40 firms had already submitted bids.
But Judge Dodson ruled that “the first respondent (Joburg) is interdicted and restrained from in any way proceeding further with the processing, evaluation or adjudication of the new tender”.
Nthatisi Modingoane, the spokesperson for the City of Joburg, said the city respected the rule of law and would abide by the court’s ruling.
On whether the bribery allegations would be investigated, as referred to in the judgment - as well as whether affected communities would be engaged with - Modingoane said: “The city’s housing department will be convening community meetings to inform the community of this judgment (and its implications) in the near future, together with proposals on how to move forward.
“The city is investigating all claims of alleged irregularities in relation to this tender. Where officials are found to have flouted the rules and regulations, necessary action will be taken.”