DM168 Investigation

The crumbling house that Ace Magashule built

The crumbling house that Ace Magashule built

Vandalised houses, medical equipment standing idle and unused taxi ranks – the promises Ace Magashule made to the people of the Free State are literally falling apart.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Ace Magashule has created an image of himself as a man of the people – Saint Ace of the Free State, a saviour of the poor.  While he insists there was no corruption in the Free State during his eight-year tenure as premier, his legacy is littered with failed, incomplete or stagnant projects and developments.

Magashule’s State of the Province addresses and public comments are peppered with promises of better housing, not “a kasi township”, improved access to healthcare and better services. But a closer look at some of the celebrated multimillion-rand projects launched while he was at the helm has shown them to be monumental flops that have cost the province hundreds of millions of rands while failing to deliver on his promises.

Magashule resigned as premier in 2018 to take up the post of secretary -general of the ANC. Here are six failed projects left behind in his wake.

Tall grass dwarfs the housing development built, amidst much fanfare, to alleviate the low-cost housing shortage in the province. Some of the houses in the mixed development zone, are earmarked for former liberation struggle fighters. The houses have been unoccupied for several years with some having been vandalized. Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

Hillside View Mixed Housing

The project was launched in 2016. In his February 2016 State of the Province Address (Sopa), Magashule said 400 of the 950 social housing units at the project would be completed by June 2016. In 2017, the Free State Department of Human Settlements proposed in a five-year integrated human settlements plan to allocate R21.8-million for 600 RDP houses in the development as well as R34.2-million for 955 social housing units and R408.9-million for infrastructure.

In October 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa handed over 230 houses to the beneficiaries of the project. It was said, at the time, that it would take until 2022 for the entire project to be completed.

The housing development south of Bloemfontein now stands derelict. Many of the houses are unoccupied, and some have been vandalised.

“The manner in which this whole process was done is not right,” lamented Gregory Nthatisi, ANC MK Veterans National Council secretary-general.

Nthatisi, a one-time ally of Magashule, described Magashule as a monster who, he claimed, put patronage before the interests of ordinary citizens, and veterans in particular.

Attempts to get comment from the Free State Housing Department were unsuccessful.

Ruins of the partly demolished ‘Ramkraal’ prison are all that remain on a barren piece of land just outside the Bloemfontein city limits. The land was earmarked for construction of the new Free State legislature building. Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

Ramkraal Prison

In 2010, it was decided that the Ramkraal Prison in Bloemfontein would be converted into the seat of the Free State Legislature.

However, by 2017, it was reported that nothing had been done to the prison despite R100-million of the R120-million budget already being spent. The missing millions could not be accounted for.

By July 2018, the matter was under investigation by the Auditor-General. However, the investigation was soon tripped up by a lack of documents and invoices that referred to “non-tangible things” difficult to verify, Aletta van Tromp, the Auditor-General’s executive responsible for investigations told the provincial legislature at the time.

Little work has been done at the site. All that is visible are the ruins of the partly demolished apartheid-era Ramkraal Prison.

A visit to the Free State Psychiatric Complex has revealed that the controversial bus clinics, reportedly costing a cool R11 million each, are still parked next to the EMS offices seemingly still gathering dust. Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

“China” buses continue to gather dust

Multimillion-rand medical buses that were bought from MediQuip Hub SA, a medical equipment supplier that landed lucrative tenders from the Free State Health Department and at the time had a Magashule ally on its board, are gathering dust at various health facilities.

When DM168 visited the Bloemfontein Psychiatric Complex this week, two buses were parked under a roof, exactly where they had been parked three years ago.

Spotlight reported in Daily Maverick in 2018 that in April 2016, the Free State tender bulletin announced MediQuip was awarded its first major tender in the province. This tender was for the provision of mobile medical units (a kind of mobile clinic), or “China buses” as they are commonly referred to in the province.

The department indicated at the time that it had paid MediQuip about R70-million under this tender for six of these medical units. And while the announcement was made in April 2016, this tender was awarded in October 2015. The October 2015 date is only half a year after Tefetso Bernard Phitsane became a director of MediQuip.

Phitsane is a senior ANC politician in the Free State. He is the chairperson of the beleaguered Bloem Water and is a close ally of Magashule.

Mobile medical units in the Free State and North West made headlines following exposés about contracts being awarded to the Gupta-linked company Mediosa. The six mobile clinics were going to be operated by Mediosa before that link was exposed and stopped.

After the failure to deploy the mobile buses was exposed, the Department of Health claimed it was recruiting full-time drivers for the buses, which are not able to operate on rural roads and need drivers with special permits.

X-ray machines that are unusable gather dust in a storeroom. Photo: Supplied

Mobile X-ray machines stand idle

MediQuip, which developed a track record of supplying inferior medical equipment to the Free State Health Department, sent five mobile X-ray units, each costing R2.5-million, to Pelonomi Hospital in 2018, but they were due to be returned after a key part of the machines was too short, making them unusable and increasing the risk of radiation exposure for patients.

An investigation by DM168 this week revealed that these machines are in a storeroom at the hospital’s radiology department where they are standing idle.

A doctor who spoke to DM168 this week said corruption had devastated the province’s Radiology Department, which used to be world-class. He said the lack of proper equipment placed a massive burden on the department as well as doctors in need of X-ray facilities.

Free State health department spokesperson Elke de Witt said they would not be able to comment in the given time as “all the relevant information was still being gathered from the various units in the Department”.

Some activity can be seen at the site of the on again off again housing development in the Bochabela area of Mangaung. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

Silver City

In 2014, Magashule stated the province’s intention to build community residential units in Silver City Hostels as part of the province’s social housing programme. In January and February 2017, the provincial portfolio committee on human settlements conducted an oversight to assess various plans, projects and programmes, including Silver City. They found that R11.2-million of the R123.6-million budget had been spent and that 18 units out of the estimated 526 had been constructed. The estimated date of completion was March 2017. The development in the Bochabela area of Mangaung is still to be completed.

The upgraded Bloemfontein taxi rank assumed to have cost the government millions of rands stand empty with little or no taxis using the structure. Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

Mangaung Taxi Rank

Since construction was completed in 2011, the taxi rank has not been used as taxi operators say it is unusable. It was budgeted to cost R400-million to construct but was allegedly not built to specifications and only for R40-million.

In 2017, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane investigated alleged irregularities in the project. A year later she reported that she found no evidence of maladministration. DM168

Additional reporting by a Free State journalist who did not want to be named for fear of intimidation.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ramabifi Kenneth Thobejane says:

    Just like his mentor, Jacob Zuma, he projects himself as a “man of the people”.
    In truth, they are enemies of the people! Wanton looting and plunder! Shameless!

  • Sergio CPT says:

    Nothing but a wicked, deceitful and common thief cloaked as caring for the people and the poor. Can not wait to see him and all his ilk languishing in prison.

    • Michael Hill says:

      As a loyal insider I dont know why you ignore my Readykit HS contract for 1000 houses in Vrede October 2014. After just 200 houses the money dried up. Not even enough to connect to services. In winter of 2016 the people rebelled and tried to destroy them. Eventually we repaired the damage and now happily occupied. It was Ace who stole R30m from the HS fund and re-allocated to those who paid his 10% but could not build! Typical.
      Please be thorough with your research !

  • P G Muller says:

    …and post his court appearance he has the audacity to state “we must continue delivering to the people” ………the man has nil shame

  • Zan-Pierre Beetge says:

    The saddest part is that these projects seem to have been to help the poorest, yet they are the ones that will bear the brunt of failings listed here.
    Great work DM

  • Jennifer Duncan says:

    Will Ace be held accountable. I know he should, but will he? This article reflects years of maladministration – a situation about which the ruling party must have been aware, yet nothing was ever done about it. This is the reality we face as a nation. So sad.

  • Coen Gous says:

    How is it even possible that Magashule ever got away with it? And how is it even possible that citizens in the Free State did nothing about, like happened in the North West under Supra Mahumapelo. How is it possibly that ANC branch managers even voted for Magashule as Secretary General at the ANC elective conference in 2017? Something is amiss, as the “crimes” of Magashule were well known by then, thanks to the excellent work of good journalists, including DM. How then can any sane person think that the ANC can “self-correct”?

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    The unit cost of the housing project was budgeted at R298,971.061 per unit (for 600 + 955= 1555). Had you given the intended recipients that cash and told them to build a house they could have done it several times over and turned a profit. But Cyril only handed over 23o units so each unit cost the taxpayer over 2+ million per unit. Those are some fancy RDP houses! But what’s worse is that the MK is now complaining. Ace didn’t hide what he was doing in the free state. He did it full monty with his middle finger well and truly stuck in the face of the ANC, MK vets and anyone else who now wants to bellyache. State capture is no secret. Every single member of the cabinet and ANC caucus (at very least) knew but now all claim they either didn’t know or could do nothing about it or was compelled by ANC policy to steal from the poorest. It’s a pornographic robbery!

  • Wendy Dewberry says:

    Lucky for Ace those who vote for him and JZ wont get to read this article.

  • L Dennis says:


  • Selwyn Lange says:

    Late in 2019 we did a trip through the Eastern Cape, Eastern FS and on to KNP. The roads, in general were pretty good – even with clearing of vegetation etc in the EC and MP. EXCEPT in the FS. The roads were in a shocking state with weeds growing through the tarmac and potholes everywhere. When we overnighted near Clarens we commented on this to our host. “That’s because they have stolen all the money meant for maintenance” he said. QED.

  • District Six says:

    A regular Robin Hood. Tea will be served at Nottingham compound at 4pm around the fire-pool. Don’t forget to Tweet the invitation.

  • Robert Mitchell says:

    Just imagine what could have become of all thiose projects had they been completed. The ANC would be much more popular for one, but Ace would be like a god to these people! would it not be easier to sleep at night knowing what you had achieved for the poor people during your watch! He would be a richer person for doing good for the people. And Oh he still could have taken a couiple of million off the top for his efforts, and you know it would not be know! But that was not enough. Make that 100 million per job. and destroy peoples futures ,damn the country. Selfishness like that hath no bounds. Evil.

  • Sergio CPT says:

    And Ace says that there was no corruption under his watch!! The man must be beyond stupid if he thinks anyone but his brain-dead followers believe such hogwash. Evil personified!

  • Carl Metelerkamp says:

    I would assume they spent the full budget on each project or maybe more but none of them got completed. So where did all the money go then?

  • Gerhard Coetzee says:

    There is no Accountability for ANC politicians and cronies due to their policies that the ANC comes first as is evidenced in many cases for example impeachment of Zuma and all ANC member supported him all these years. Many of the ANC leaders confirmed this in press conferences that if they have to choice between the country and the ANC. they will choose their people.

  • Steven Burnett says:

    What about the R400m wordpress website….. at least that was built

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