Johannesburg – Former Free State MEC Mosebenzi Zwane will appear at the Zondo commission this morning to face questions over a R1 billion Free State housing project.
The commission has this week focused its eyes on a R1 billion Free State housing development project which was supposed to produce 14 000 housing units for Free State residents, but not much was derived from the project.
Provincial governments are given budgets to spend on building houses for citizens every year. In 2010 the Free State department of human settlements had a budget of R1.4 billion, but by October 2010, just four months before the end of the financial year, the department had spent less than 10% of the budget on housing.
On Tuesday, the former head of the department of human settlements in the Free State, Mpho Mokoena, explained that the national Human Settlements Department had decided to take away the allocated housing budget from the province because it was not spent. The money would then be distributed to other provinces that were spending their budgets.
Mokoena testified that facing this threat, former MEC Mosebenzi Zwane, called a “war room” meeting in October 2010 where he introduced a plan to ensure that the housing budget was spent.
Mokoena recalled that Zwane explained that the department would buy building material from suppliers to ensure that it would be delivered to contractors so that their work, to build houses, was not hampered.
Mokoena said he raised questions on the possible illegality of this scheme with Zwane, but the former MEC insisted that this was legal and was being done in other provinces. The October 2010 meeting concluded that a document would be drafted on the project.
Mokoena said when he again raised concerns with Zwane, he was simply told if he would not agree to the implementation of the project, he could resign.
He told the inquiry that in November 2010, he signed the document approving the housing project because he was under pressure to save his job.
More than R500 million was paid out to suppliers and contractors in three months between 2010 and 2011. This was despite work not being done.
The national government caught wind of the advanced payments in 2011 and the minister of human settlements Tokyo Sexwale warned Zwane and Mokoena that advanced payments should stop.
Mokoena said shortly after this warning, Zwane insisted that these advanced payments should continue.
Zwane had also instructed Mokoena that a particular contractor, Rochelle Els, should be prioritised for advanced payments. Mokoena said Zwane told him that Magashule had requested that payments to Els be prioritised.
On Wednesday another witness, Mphikeleli Kaizer Maxatshwa, who served as subordinate to Mokoena, testified to the scheme’s illegality.