One of the capital city’s oldest and most extraordinary buildings, the city hall in Pretoria, is a shocking R100 million disaster, the new governing council uncovered.
Mayor Solly Msimanga took journalists on an exclusive tour of the 80-year-old building this week, detailing what previous mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa approved for the refurbishing project.
The main entrance to the hall, where security cameras and fire detection units were installed, was left incomplete and without electric power.
The main hall, which initially had a sprung floor in the dance section, was not serviced but instead covered with laminated flooring, resulting in the famous hall losing its bounce.
However, the city was charged for the sprung floor system.
One of the largest organs in the southern hemisphere, which has more than 6 000 parts, suffered serious damage when painters dropped scaffolding on the organ pipes.
Senior strategic executive specialist in the mayor’s office Pieter de Necker said the organ would have to be dismantled and shipped to Chicago in the US, for the R18 million worth of repairs.
Aside from the organ, all balcony chairs were removed for upholstery work which was approved and paid for. However, the chairs never returned.
About 18 original chandeliers have also disappeared. On the same floor, a glass fire protection door with aluminium frames was cut to size to be refitted as it was bought second hand.
“When it comes to reinstallation of a heritage site, items should not be duplicated but should fit the style of the building. There are a couple of fittings like these that don’t suit the National Heritage Council,” De Necker said.
Several original brass door and window handles were missing and cable ties were used instead. Bulletproof windows were also installed for no reason.
On the second floor, the computer server room is facing direct sunlight while the disabled toilet has a full view of the backyard as four big windows face the toilet seat. In the most historic room, the old Pretoria Council Chamber, workers who were repainting the walls did not cover the original historic paintings, resulting in white paint splattered on the heritage artworks.
De Necker said the mess has resulted in film companies pulling out of using the hall as a shooting location. “Six companies withdrew their intention to shoot films in this room. One of them wanted to film the Mandela Rivonia trial but the company changed its mind. There was also R8 million paid for furniture that was never delivered. The renovations in this room are not in line with health and safety standards, as well as the heritage council,” De Necker said.
Msimanga said the case he opened with police, which looks at corrupt and irregular expenditure by the previous administration, was handed to the specialised commercial crimes unit so that those responsible for the R100 million mess can face the law.
“If money is handed out for the public good, it should be used for just that. It should not go to the hands of politically connected and corrupt officials,” he said.