Maidens’ vil­lage shocks MPs

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - Thami Magubane

MEM­BERS of Par­lia­ment were yes­ter­day shocked by shoddy work­man­ship and col­laps­ing in­fra­struc­ture at the mul­ti­mil­lion- rand “cul­tural cen­tre” that is sup­posed to ac­com­mo­date thou­sands of maidens who at­tend the an­nual reed dance.

The MPs, from the na­tional port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on arts and cul­ture, went on a site visit of the cen­tre be­ing built at King Good­will Zwelithini’s Enyokeni Palace in Non­goma yes­ter­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the plans, the R600 mil­lion pro­ject is go­ing to con­sist of a mu­seum, dor­mi­tory for the maidens, an am­phithe­atre and a play­ground.

The mem­bers are now de­mand­ing to know what hap­pened to R130m that has al­ready been pumped into the pro­ject, adding that “out­right cor­rup­tion has taken place”.

The site visit fol­lowed nu­mer­ous re­ports of slow-mov­ing work and spi­ralling costs.

The mem­bers al­leged that their in­spec­tion re­vealed poor work­man­ship, with in­fra­struc­ture al­ready fall­ing apart with­out hav­ing ever been used, barely two years af­ter it was built.

Zwelithini also reg­is­tered his dis­ap­point­ment with the work, es­pe­cially af­ter al­le­ga­tions that the cul­tural site was “his palace”.

The com­plex had been billed as a tourist at­trac­tion that would serve to en­hance the stature of Umkhosi Womh­langa, and pro­vide safe bathing ar­eas for the maidens who at­tend the event.

How­ever, the pro­ject has since courted con­tro­versy, with re­ports that the con­struc­tion cost could climb to R1 bil­lion.

ANC MP Win­ston Rab­o­tapi said the com­mit­tee had been lied to.

“There is some cor­rup­tion go­ing on there. The de­part­ment is not telling us the truth. What we have seen and what we have been told are not the same. There is a lot of shoddy work.

“The wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture they put there, I am not sure how much wa­ter it will hold. I be­lieve more wa­ter will be drip­ping out,” Rab­o­tapi said.

He con­tin­ued: “The arena is poorly built, the walls are al­ready crack­ing. It can­not be that the wall that is just two years old is al­ready crack­ing. I won­der what kind of pro­fes­sion­als they used.

“We will be sum­mon­ing the de­part­ment to Par­lia­ment to come and ex­plain this,” Rab­o­tapi said.

When con­tacted for comment by The Mer­cury yes­ter­day, the de­part­ment said it re­quired more time to pro­vide a re­sponse.

The DA’s Allen Groot­boom, a mem­ber of the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee, said the gov­ern­ment had been cheated.

“What we have seen here is dis­turb­ing. For the R130m that has been spent, all they have to show for it is the am­phithe­atre and wa­ter tanks.

“The prices here were def­i­nitely in­flated, as the re­port that was con­ducted on the foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion said. The work was of poor qual­ity and there was no value for money,” said Groot­boom.

He said it was dis­turb­ing that, just two years since the am­phithe­atre was built, it was al­ready show­ing signs of crack­ing.

“The wa­ter is al­ready leak­ing. There seems to have been no main­te­nance done,” he said.

The chair­per­son of the com­mit­tee, Xoliswa Tom, said: “We will now go back as the com­mit­tee and dis­cuss if what we saw is (worth) the money that has been spent, and we will draft our re­port”.

Zwelithini said in a state­ment that he would like to see the mat­ter be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

“As you will wit­ness your­selves, there is no build­ing there; some parts have con­crete, the sta­dium is par­tially built with some fenc­ing. We do not know what or how much the gov­ern­ment spent, be­cause they were not obliged to in­form me what they had spent money on or how much they had spent,” said the state­ment.

Zwelithini said while he sup­ported the probe, he also be­lieved that the cen­tre would bring dig­nity to the maidens.

“The na­ture of a demo­cratic de­vel­op­men­tal state can be mea­sured not only against the prin­ci­ples of fair­ness, in­clu­siv­ity and ac­count­abil­ity, but also by the ex­tent to which they re­spond to the needs of the peo­ple. This de­vel­op­ment should be seen as the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the needs of thou­sands of maidens and ru­ral peo­ple,” said the king.

At­tempts to get the name of the com­pany that re­ceived the ten­der to build the cen­tre were un­suc­cess­ful last night.


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