Former Gauteng premier and housing and finance MEC Paul Mashatile has told the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearing that he has no knowledge of councillors who used their political influence to benefit from the Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP).
Mashatile, who is now the ANC’s treasurer-general, was speaking before a panel at the Alexandra inquiry that took place at the SAHRC’s offices in Parktown, Johannesburg, on Tuesday.
This as the SAHRC and Office of the Public Protector continue its sessions looking into what had happened to the funds that were allocated for the project.
The inquiry was established following widespread protests in the suburb earlier this year.
Mashatile informed the inquiry he could only account for his involvement from 1999 to 2004 when he served as an MEC.
He said the project was conceptualised in 1999 and implemented from 2001.
Mashatile faced tough questions from the panel on whether he had any knowledge of allegations against individuals, particularly councillors who used their political influence to benefit from service providers who were appointed to build houses for the project.
Among the allegations was that councillors benefitted by receiving houses and then renting them out to residents.
Mashatile said when the project was first steered by the provincial government before being given to the City of Johannesburg, it was headed by the chief director who appointed a project manager to deal with procurement and the allocation of houses.
He added the processes would have made it difficult for any councillor and any other stakeholder involved in the programme to use their influence to benefit from it.
Mashatile said there was a waiting list that was drawn up by the housing department, adding allocations came from the list and no councillors were placed on it unless they fell under a certain category in terms of their household income.
“If you were a councillor with no income beyond R3,500, you would qualify for a house but you would be put on the waiting list. You would not be given a house just because you are a councillor. Councillors were not allowed to allocate houses. That was done by officials of the department and City.”
He said at the time when the project was under way, he had not received reports of corruption although there were rumours.
“Remember that the MEC for finance will not approve budgets unless there is a clear plan and a time frame for implementation. But also reporting and the good thing is that when you report back, your report is referred to Scopa. During that whole period, there was no problem with our implementation.
“Mitigation risk was completely in place and reporting mechanisms were good and adequate. The project was managed properly.”
SAHRC Gauteng manager Buang Jones said the name of Mike Maile had come up while the commission gathered facts surrounding the project.
Jones asked Mashatile to outline how he knew him.
Mashatile said Maile worked as a chief director in the housing department and was responsible for urban renewal.
“His association with the ARP was not as an outsider, he worked there until I left when I was no longer MEC. The project moved to City so all the people who worked for me on it were no longer involved, including him,” he added.
The commission said it would still look into inviting Maile along with other project managers to give their testimonies.
Mashatile shared with the inquiry that the initial plan of the project was that renewal of the township would take about 10 years.
This was later changed to seven years after consultations with the national government. He pointed out that the R1.3bn for the ARP was a projected cost that was meant to be used over that period.
“We then looked at how we can ensure that this project is properly coordinated and all elements are funded. We then agreed that the best way was that any department that has a role will then budget for the project it must implement”.
“So there was no R1.3bn allocated by the national government for the ARP at all. It was a projection of what would be required over that period,” Mashatile said.
The commission will resume on Thursday, with former environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane expected to face questions from the panel.