Free State asbestos project engulfed in corruption and greed

The state has failed in its duty to provide adequate, safe housing.
A worker removes asbestos from the roof of a house. Image: Jerry Lampen, Reuters

This week the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture will focus on the Free State asbestos project.

Evidence leader Advocate Paul Pretorius informed the commission that since former Free State economic development MEC Mxolisi Dukwana gave evidence in August last year, the commission has conducted an extensive investigation, and the “fruits of that investigation are now contained in the bundles” to be presented to the commission.

The evidence bundles contain affidavits from various witnesses, the current Public Protector’s report which makes several findings, court papers, transcripts of evidence, documents, plus a comprehensive signed investigators’ report.

The overall picture

Pretorius explained that asbestos was used extensively in housing and industry, but particularly in low-cost housing.

Some 36 000 low-cost homes in the Free State contain asbestos.

The National Department of Human Settlements appointed a panel of eight service providers in Gauteng to assess the prevalence, existence and extent of asbestos in low-cost housing, and to eradicate the asbestos. One of the companies appointed was Blackhead Consulting.

“There is no evidence of any competitive bidding that took place in the appointment of either panel… there was no tender process… there was no contract. The processes were entirely flawed,” said Pretorius.

Blackhead charged R650 per unit to assess the prevalence of asbestos. The Auditor-General declared that this procurement process was irregular.

The evidence of Blackhead CEO Edwin Sodi shows that “the profits were massive”. Blackhead was paid “in the region of R230 million” and the profit was in the “region of R100 million….the profits of all the others who participated in similar projects ranged between 50% and 60%.”

Sodi met the late Ignatius Mpambani (owner of Diamond Hill), who was well-connected and influential, at a function in Welkom. Sodi recognised a business opportunity. An unsolicited bid was made to the Free State department, resulting in a contract with a joint venture: Blackhead-Diamond Hill JV.

According to Sodi, Mpambani “had no knowledge, experience or capacity to deal with asbestos eradication. He contributed nothing to the contract at all.” All Mpambani did was “unlock opportunities through officials in the Free State.” For this, Mpambani was to receive 50% of the project price. The unlocking of opportunities required government officials to be paid off. Pretorius referred to a schedule in the commission’s possession that reflects the initials of provincial officials next to the payment allocated.

Mpambani was gunned down in Sandton in 2017.

The JV contract had a price of R850 per unit, contained different terms and conditions, and no transparent competitive bidding process had taken place. In the eyes of Pretorius, the participation contract was a “clumsy sham to cloak the contract between the Free State department and the JV with a veneer of legality.”

The service level agreement (SLA) entered into with the Free State department – according to Pretorius, “was deficient, it contained no information regarding to overall price per unit…it had a number of provisions regarding payment (which were ignored in the execution of the contract)…there was no budget for the project.” The SLA was also in contravention of the department’s own supply chain management policy.

The initial cost of the project was R127 million. The SLA provided that the JV would pay for the project. This was clearly not the intention. What it meant was that the JV would continue to ‘unlock’ the process by making sure that there was budget to pay. This would be achieved by a ‘rearrangement of priorities’ and a rearrangement of ‘budgetary considerations’.

The regulations laid down by National Treasury in regard to an unsolicited bid require that an unsolicited bid is transparent, and must therefore be published. However, this process was secretive. No due diligence was carried out on the JV. Further payment to the JV was suspended when the current Public Protector produced a report stating that the SLA was flawed and unlawful.

The asbestos audits

Jacobus Roets, a registered asbestos expert, gave his opinion to the commission on five examples of assessments and one report from the Free State asbestos project. In his opinion these documents do not contain the necessary information to enable a project for the effective removal and eradication of the asbestos (type of asbestos, other asbestos containing building materials, quantity, risk, GPS location). The assessments would have to be redone.

Legislation requires an asbestos report that is drafted after an assessment and identification of asbestos to be properly recorded and kept for 40 years.

The Free State asbestos project squandered hundreds of millions of rands, but the asbestos is still in the roofs, and the occupants of the homes are exposed to the health risks.

Blue asbestos is the most hazardous asbestos, and was extensively used in the Northern Cape.

The state has a constitutional duty to care for the safety and well-being of its citizens, and to provide adequate housing. It has failed to do so.

Stricter stance for commission

As an aside, the Zondo Commission is entering into a new phase. Implicated persons will now have to answer to all allegations, and they will no longer be able to hide behind their false sense of self-importance, political connections, and entitlement.

Up against them is a mountain of evidence gathered by the commission’s investigators after painstaking inquiry.

Judge Raymond Zondo, seemingly considerate and affable, is adopting a tougher stance and will no longer be putting up with witnesses’ excuses of not having had time to prepare their defence, or of how important and busy they are in their day jobs.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Image: The Citizen

He recently expressed the view “that it is about time that everyone must be issued with summons, compelling them to appear before the commission, rather than just issuing notices.”

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Is there any project that the cANCer is involved with that does not smell of greed or corruption? Asking for a friend.

Yes, the last one was in 1914 when the young Albert Luthuli attended the Ohlange Institute boarding school, run by Dr John Dube, the founding President of the South African Native National Council. Here Albert studied for two terms before being transferred to a Methodist institution at Edendale, near Pietermaritzburg to undergo a teachers’ training course.

jnrb. And when we look at 2020, how did that event you speak about eventually turn out then for South Africa? Asking for a friend.

Many years ago ,when he was Premier, Ace asked for a meeting with businessmen to discuss ways of working together in a beneficial way and if we required assistance and what are the stumbling blocks

During my presentation i mentioned a social responsibility and upliftment program for the poor as part of my social responsibility. I had been struggling for years to get a certain permit to kick start a project due to slack and corrupt officials..You see i don’t grease palms. I was hoping this guy would help as he called for the meeting and wanted to see business thrive..or so i thought

Today i realise how naive and stupid i was! It is true that the ANC don’t care about the poor or upliftment. I experienced it first hand..I had to wait another 8 years or so when i eventually got the necessary documents

The mafia back in the day is nothing compared to Mr Holier than though SG ..He is the tail that wags the dog, he has the relationship with Cuba and Zuma and he is the one who tells our dear puppet Pres Squirrel to keep at bay

Squirrel gets told what to say,how to say it and when to say it..Between Ace and Aunty Dlamini, they rule the roost and we as tax payers pay to watch the circus and events unfold which has affected this country in its entirety

Let them eat asbestos.

Saw one of the protagonists got whacked in Sandton this morning. Brightened my day no end 🙂

How do these (township) events affect people of Sandton*?
Sandton is a 1st world city in (Gauteng) South Africa which is on par with any major 1st world city like Sydney, London,LA,etc. Sandton residents should forget about SA and focus on the fruits they enjoyed in (apartheid) South Africa under prev governments.
Sandton residents who are still reading ‘moneyweb’ literature are clearly out of touch with the real world. I would expect Sandton residents to have (by now) invested in property and stock markets in Sydney,NY, London etc.

Message to Sandton residents.
The fruits you enjoyed in (apartheid) South Africa under prev governments has new beneficiaries i.e Brothers (& sisters) and comrades from cANCer.

Written from my humble abode in Bonteheuwel.
* This message is not intended for the brothers and comrades who now call Sandton home.

Many of us worked hard and invested long for our “fruits”….why don’t you give it a try, sunshine?

I remain confident that Zondo will execute his mandate and that many brothers, sisters and comrades will be brought to justice.

I notice you have one vote, Reggwat???

‘The state has failed in its duty to provide adequate, safe housing’

Just a slight correction, it should read:

The state has failed.

Agree, It has failed. In failing, it has robbed the country and its citizens / tax payers. Should we as citizens not have a claim?

Should we not stop paying taxes as this engine has failed?

No need for a commission, just ask Ace, that’s his stomping ground.

And as usual, NO ONE IS CHARGED, NO ONE IS ARRESTED, NO ONE APPEARS IN COURT and NO ONE GOES TO JAIL.
The loot has long since vanished and no one is accountable….. no one did anything wrong!!!

The cANCer clearly cares for the citizens of this country.
Why else would they use blue asbestos when they built the houses? #sarcasm

“Blue asbestos is the most hazardous asbestos, and was extensively used in the Northern Cape”

Maybe it’s the Northern Cape dialect they don’t care much for; an attempt to suppress it?
LoL

That worker has a suit but is not wearing a mask!

Oh, don’t be so picky! 😉

“This week the Zondo Commission…”!

This opening line tells you everything you need to know about the state of the country.

The opening STATE (tax payer) contribution to covid was R500B (actually R370B or less, as R130b+ is/ was re-directed) – anyone care to hazard how much of this will be looted/ has been?

Seen as it was approved that ‘due to urgency’ – normal tender procedures have been abandoned and so has treasury oversight – allegedly in the interest of expediency.

Extrapolate this exercise by a thousand and you can then understand why the economy has collapsed.

How will it be solved? By time … as Allan Gray advises in their media marketing … lots of time.

The whole project of identifying and removing of asbestos roofs is a waste of money. Asbestosis is caused by inhaling microscopic asbestos fibres over many years. These small fibres are only found in asbestos dust, that is where the asbestos is mined and where the asbestos is processed in factories. Once the asbestos is moulded into a roof sheet and installed, it poses no danger to the people anymore. It only becomes dangerous if disturbed, e.g. if workers remove the asbestos from the houses, it will create a dangerous situation, especially if the workers do it for a number of years. The whole hype about replacing asbestos roofs is based on misinformation and is more political than scientific. Part of my house and anumber of my neighbours’ roofs are asbestos and I don’t loose any sleep about that.

Greed is the worst ‘sin’ of all time.

Zondo is getting paid to be useless!

one good thing is that there are tough laws in SA for the safe disposal of asbestos.As auretha says, this lethal substance is safe provided it is not disturbed.So if you have an asbestos roof/guttering/water tank do not let workers near unless they are fully complying with the law in this regard. Don’t endanger your life,your family’s or neighbour’s.There’s a sobering reason why workers dress in moonsuits.

End of comments.

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