The City of Johannesburg says it will seek intervention from National Treasury in its R180m human settlements development grant dispute with the Gauteng department of human settlements…
Mayor Herman Mashaba said the provincial government’s decision to cut the grant by R180m was “pure political sabotage”.
On Thursday Mashaba, along with member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for housing Meshack van Wyk, visited the Riverside Housing Project near Diepsloot, where the building of 1 484 RDP houses is set to be stalled due to the funding cut.
“This decision to cut R180m of our housing grant is pure political sabotage, otherwise I need someone to prove to me otherwise,” Mashaba said during a media briefing conducted at the site.
Mashaba said the city manager would be writing to the director general of National Treasury in terms of section 44 of the Municipal Finance Management Act and seek an urgent intervention in the dispute.
At the Riverside Housing Project site, the laying of the foundations – now abandoned – had been started and developers were ready to start building, Mashaba said.
City to consider court challenge
Mashaba said his office had been told that the reason for the cut in the housing grant was that the City was not performing well.
However, he said he failed to understand what that meant because in 2018 the City had used 98% of its funding.
“We don’t understand why, even before halfway through the current financial year, they are already taking our funding without even having the decency to engage with us,” Mashaba said.
Mashaba said he had had numerous meetings with human settlements and cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Dikgang Uhuru Moiloa and Gauteng Premier David Makhura to discuss housing issues.
He added that the City would go as far as using the courts as a way of forcing the provincial department’s hand because halting the project would worsen the 300 000 housing unit backlog in the City.
Other projects that would be affected by the cut include the Elias Motsoaledi housing plan for military veterans, the Elias Motsoaledi RDP housing project, Fleurhof RDP housing development and the South Hills housing project.
Failed attempt to put City under administration
“With this R180m [cut], we do not know what is going to happen,” Mashaba said.
He said the reason why he believed that this was political was because Moiloa had written to the City in 2018 indicating he intended to invoke section 106 of the Municipal System’s Act to put the City under administration.
“When he wrote that letter, immediately the very same day, I responded to him asking very difficult questions referring to legislation,”
Mashaba said there was, however, no basis for that call and it was withdrawn.
“When he wrote that letter, immediately the very same day, I responded to him asking very difficult questions referring to legislation,” he said.
“But now a few weeks later he decided that he is not succeeding with putting the City of Johannesburg under administration and he thought he would punish us by taking money from us,” Mashaba said.
— Herman Mashaba (@HermanMashaba) January 10, 2019
Mashaba said the City would fight the decision and he was “unapologetic” about his stance.
Claims rejected by department
Van Wyk added the City had plans in place within its housing department that he believed the provincial government did not want to succeed.
“As MMC for housing we will stand with the mayor and we will do what we do. We are committed to work. If that was not done previously, it has to be done now. Electorate officials have to do their work and that’s the trend we want to set. We are here to perform and not to loot government’s money,” Van Wyk said.
However, the Gauteng department of human settlements has described the claims by Mashaba against it as “false”.
“The mayor of Johannesburg is yet to convince the citizens of the City that he is not a charlatan for continuing to make such claims, even after he has been proven to be wrong,”
“The mayor of Johannesburg is yet to convince the citizens of the City that he is not a charlatan for continuing to make such claims, even after he has been proven to be wrong,” the department said in a statement.
It added that it was “evident that he lacks the skills and expertise to run such a big city”.
The department said in August 2018, at its budget lekgotla, the City of Johannesburg “failed to account for over R382 854 894 that was transferred to the City”.
Contractors allegedly unpaid
“Furthermore, the CoJ (City of Johannesburg) failed to account for the 2015 housing units that were meant to be delivered. These units were to be delivered in Fleurhof, South Hills and some in Riverside View and Lufhureng,” Gauteng human settlements spokesperson Keith Khoza said.
He said the houses had not been delivered “due to failure by the CoJ to pay contractors”.
Khoza added that contractors were on site at Riverside and the project was scheduled with no stalling expected.
“Mayor Mashaba has signed a tripartite agreement on this project yet he doesn’t want to sign on others, his responsibility is to install electric infrastructure, while the GDHS (Gauteng Department of Human Settlements) is to build houses,” said Khoza.
He added that the department reserved its right not to use the City of Johannesburg as an implementing agent due to non-delivery.
“There are outstanding bills on bulk infrastructure of R400m to Calgro by the CoJ which are yet to be paid by Mayor Mashaba’s administration. As a result some projects cannot be completed,” Khoza said.