Multimillion-rand community centres abandoned

A centre built some years ago in Richmond has been vandalised after its construction was abandoned before it was completed. Picture: Bongani Hans

A centre built some years ago in Richmond has been vandalised after its construction was abandoned before it was completed. Picture: Bongani Hans

Published Mar 30, 2024


Durban — Two unfinished Midlands multi-purpose facilities, built with taxpayers’ money, have been vandalised for years.

Residents of Richmond and Mooi River, in the Midlands, have given up hope they will ever be able to use the multimillion-rand community centres which have turned into white elephants.

The Department of Human Settlements has been blamed for taking years to complete and hand over the Siyathuthuka centres to municipalities for use by locals.

Sources say the department built the facilities, introduced as social amenities, as a pilot project to support emerging businesses in low-cost housing areas.

A resident of Ndaleni village in Richmond said the community had lost hope that the facility would ever be opened.

“It is clear that this thing was left uncompleted because they embezzled money,” he said, asking that his name be withheld.

The face-brick facility in Richmond is surrounded by overgrown grass. Those who have been inside say it is falling apart because of years of neglect.

Human Settlement provincial spokesperson Mlungisi Khumalo said the department had spent more than R17 million on building the Richmond structure in Ndaleni in the 2017/2018 financial year.

“There were challenges in the implementation of the project, resulting in litigations. The department has then prepared an application to utilise Municipal Housing Operating Accounts funds to allow for the project to be completed and handed over to the municipality,” he said.

Khumalo said the centres were part of the development of basic social community and economic facilities.

“These facilities, under normal circumstances, are funded by municipalities. However, in the event the municipality is unable to, the provincial department may intervene.”

Khumalo said the Mooi River facility was left incomplete because it had been abandoned by an “implementing agent”. The department had appointed a structural engineer to determine the extent of the damage and provide remedial measures for the building.

“After the conclusion of the assessment, a contractor has been appointed for remedial works in line with the technical report. The anticipated completion date is October 2025.”

Khumalo could not say how much money the department had spent on the Mooi River project and how much it would cost to repair the damage.

Richmond spokesperson Sibonelo Bhengu said the municipality had, at some point, unsuccessfully asked the department to hand the facilities over to the council in a dilapidated condition because the council was concerned that if left unattended, it would be completely vandalised.

He said the council was prepared to take on the responsibility of repairing the damages.

However, Khumalo said the department would not hand over the incomplete facilities to the municipalities.

Denying that the money spent on constructing the facility had been wasted, Khumalo said: “No, because the facility will still be used for its intended purpose.”

He said the department had spent R60m on building facilities of s similar nature across the province. Ten of them were completed and handed over to their respective municipalities.

“Eight facilities are currently within the programme at different stages,” he said.

Even though the facility was owned by the department, Bhengu said Richmond had to step in and provide security guards to protect the centre.

“After the damages (caused by vandalism), they came to repair it.

“Even deputy minister for social development (Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu) promised to put a crèche there since the building has a space for the crèche, but that nice talk ended there,” said Bhengu.

He said that after the department had repaired the building, it was usable for a while, apart from it having no electricity.

“But its building material is collapsing and it is being overgrown by grass.

“Right now we have 24/7 security, I think since around the start of Covid-19,” said Bhengu.

Independent on Saturday