R383m spent on two Gauteng schools gone down the drain as they were built on waterlogged land
Johannesburg – The government has poured almost R400 million down the drain building two schools that cannot be occupied because they are constructed on wetlands.
Three years after the state-of-the-art Mayibuye Primary School was completed in Tembisa, Ekurhuleni, learners have not been able to occupy it and had to be accommodated in overcrowded containers elsewhere. The building, which cost the state R83m, has since deteriorated.
In Lyndhurst, some 20km from Tembisa, Nokuthula School for Learners with Special Educational Needs was also completed three years ago, to the tune of R300m, but as it was partially occupied because of the wetland it was built on, it resulted in the Gauteng Infrastructure Development Department (DID) not getting an occupancy certificate from the City of Joburg.
Now, the legislature portfolio committee on infrastructure development has threatened to open criminal charges against senior department officials and the contractor.
The committee is also writing a letter to Premier David Makhura to ask he institute an investigation that will lead to disciplinary actions against officials responsible.
Committee chairperson Mpho Modise said: “Learners who were supposed to be beneficiaries of this school are now housed at a nearby overcrowded school which is in a state of disrepair and poses a high risk for both learners and educators.”
The committee visited Mayibuye last month.
“On entering the school, one is greeted by flowing raw sewerage with an unbearable pungent smell which has also become a health hazard for passers-by and the surrounding community.
“As a result of not being occupied, and neglected for over three years, the school structure continues to deteriorate, with many defects such as collapsing ceiling, cracking tiles and walls as well as flooding water around the school, to name a few.
“It has become difficult for one to identify the building as that of a school as it has been abandoned and neglected for years with grass having grown to unacceptable lengths,” Modise said.
“Whoever was involved in this must know that we are coming for them. Employees from the department were conniving with the contractors and now R83m is down the drain. We want to recover that money.
“You don’t even have to do a technical study but by looking at the location, you can tell it is a wetland. But someone in the department approved plans to build because it wasn’t going to affect their children but poor people.”
He said the committee wanted to start a trend of holding officials and contractors accountable.
“This is not the only project. There is also Nokuthula where the boarding facility was built on a wetland. A lot of money was spent and the building is still empty.”
Nokuthula is partially occupied after the municipality declined to give a permanent occupancy certificate for the boarding facility as it was built on a wetland.
DA education spokesperson Khume Ramulifho said it was worrying that schools operated with temporary occupancy certificates.
“Another school is Noordgesig Primary School. The City has said minor issues should be fixed before a permanent certificate can be issued.”
The Noordgesig school was opened in January after years of learners and teachers being accommodated in an asbestos building. The new school cost R110m.
Ramulifho said: “The fault is with DID. They have not done what they were supposed to do at all these schools. This will now cost the government more money to fix the issues that were raised by the municipality. We are saying contractors and officials must be held accountable. Where will we get the money for the new costs? It has not been budgeted for.”
Modise said the committee would not only be focusing on schools but all infrastructure projects in the province.
“People must do their work. Senior officials must be charged and companies blacklisted from working with the Gauteng government ever again.
“We are coming for them. All these projects that are substandard must be stopped and people held accountable. No child deserves to learn where the Mayibuye learners are currently,” Modise said.