Millions spent on mayoral mansion 'above board'

Mayor Mduduzi Mhlongo's mansion had been approved "as per the Government Gazette number 37281 of 29 January 2014" (Zulu Observer)

Mayor Mduduzi Mhlongo's mansion had been approved "as per the Government Gazette number 37281 of 29 January 2014" (Zulu Observer)

The spokesperson for the City of uMhlathuze in KwaZulu-Natal has dismissed claims made by a Democratic Alliance councillor that a mansion being built for Mayor Mduduzi Mhlongo is being constructed at inflated costs and without approval.

Councillor Christo Botha said he wrote to municipal manager Nhlanhla Sibeko to seek clarity on where the funding for the mayoral mansion project was sourced.

He also questioned why details of the development had not been communicated to the local council or the public.

“What is of concern is that the matter and its support resolutions were not brought to council for proper deliberation and engagement. Construction of the mansion is underway at the Meer En See suburb, where clearing on the 4 470m2 yard has begun,” Botha said.

He said the site for the project had been located and that the land was estimated to be worth between R5-million and R6.5-million.

“A further concern is that the development notice says the clearing is intended for municipal housing and no mention [is made] of the fact that the mayor’s mansion is to be erected.”

Public-private partnership development

Botha said he had consulted with building contractors who estimated that the development could cost R13 500 per square metre bringing construction costs to R12.3-million.

“This excludes the erection of a boundary wall, landscaping and paving and security features which can raise the cost by an added R2-million.”

Botha said there would also be the cost of furniture and interior decoration that could further escalate the price tag.

“It could be anything from between R750 000 to R1.5-million if we are being modest. The continued housekeeping and garden maintenance costs that can range from R20 000 to R25 000 a month.”

Botha said if used correctly, the amount he estimated could be used to fund a public-private partnership development.

“We could have a development of 40 to 65 residential apartments valued at anything between R450 000 to R600 000 each, providing an added cash injection to the City of R29 250 000 to R39 000 000. [This is] money that can be reinvested in social housing or the City’s healthcare, monies that can be injected into youth business development or a booster injection to fixing the City’s infrastructure.”

City dismisses high cost claims

City spokesperson Mdu Ncalane, however, dismissed the cost estimates by Botha, maintaining the estimated costs were R5.5m, an amount set aside for the project.

Ncalane justified the mansion purchase saying it was a “strategic investment”.

“[It creates] lasting impressions to potential investors. We as a municipality have not compromised on service delivery; in fact we are one of the fastest growing cities, contrary to what councillor Botha will have you believe.”

Ncalane added: “People who are short-sighted may perceive the municipal house as a private residence for the incumbent mayor whereas the reality is that mayors serve their terms and they vacate the office. The municipal house will remain a municipal house regardless of who the incumbent is and or whichever political party he or she may come from.”

He said the project had been approved “as per the Government Gazette number 37281 of 29 January 2014 regulating councillors’ tools of trade and subsequently approved by the council back in 2014/2015 financial year. It was also included in the budget which was approved by council, where councillor Botha sits as a member.” — News 24

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