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LONG WAIT FOR JUSTICE

The Mamelodi magistrates’ court that never was, and the contractor who couldn’t finish

The Mamelodi magistrates’ court that never was, and the contractor who couldn’t finish
The Mamelodi East Magistrates’ Court that has been under construction for almost a decade. (Photo: supplied)

Residents of Mamelodi East in Tshwane are frustrated over a series of delays in the construction of a magistrates’ court that began almost a decade ago.

When work began on a new court building in November 2013, many residents of the eastern side of Mamelodi in Tshwane looked forward to the day that the area would have its own magistrates’ court within walking distance.

The nearest court is in the west of Mamelodi, meaning residents have to fork out hefty transport fares to get there and back.

According to Department of Public Works and Infrastructure communications officer Thami Mchunu, the construction of the Mamelodi East Magistrates’ Court was scheduled for completion within 18 months.

In an emailed response to Daily Maverick in October 2021, Mchunu said that construction had begun in November 2013 and was due to be completed in May 2015.

Fikile Construction, a Centurion-based company, won the tender to build the court. However, there has been virtually no activity on the site since 2014.

Today, the derelict and unfinished building, covered in rusty scaffolding, stands opposite the Eerste Fabrieke train station in Mamelodi East. There are no signs of workmen or security on the site. The car park is also unfinished.

mamelodi court

The Mamelodi East Magistrates’ Court that has been under construction for almost a decade. (Photo: supplied)

mamelodi east court

The DA’s spokesperson on justice, Glynnis Breytenbach, described the government’s failure to complete the project as ‘disgraceful’. (Photo: supplied)

“The original budget for the project was R124.6-million… R118.4-million of which has already been spent on the unfinished court building,” said Mchunu.

Explaining the motivation for the new court, Justice Department spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said it would make it easier for residents who needed to attend cases.

Mchunu confirmed to Daily Maverick last month that work had not resumed on the site since 2014.

Asked about the reasons for the protracted delays, Phiri said that “construction of the court building was disrupted due to… protest action by some community members who were demanding to be part of the project”.

The reason for more recent delays, according to Mchunu, was that the department was in the process of appointing specialist contractors to support the work of the primary contractor, Fikile Construction.

“As the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, we are finalising the SCM (supply chain management) process to advertise the tender for specialist contractor. The full work will resume upon the appointment of this specialist contractor.

“We had anticipated that this would happen in May 2022. But that has not happened. The specialist contractor will be new, but [Fikile Construction] will continue as the project’s main contractor.’’

According to Mchunu, specialist contractors are needed as Fikile Construction is incapable of carrying out such specialised work. That does raise questions about why they were given the tender in the first place.

‘Gang interference’

The department did not weigh in on speculation that Mamelodi gang, Boko Haram, had demanded shares in the construction of the building by presenting itself as a community business forum.

At the time of publishing this report, Fikile Construction had not responded to queries.

“The Department of Justice is concerned about the lack of progress in the completion of the court. Mamelodi is one of our key programmes in ensuring that we bring justice to the communities,’’ said Phiri, whose department’s budget is being used by Public Works in the construction of the court.

Phiri said his department had been informed by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) that delays in completing the building were caused by the National Treasury rejecting a request for the approval of a “variation order” to include three specialist subcontractors with original scope of works in February 2022.

“This meant the DPWI had to go for an open tender for the three specialist contractors. But this tender process was stopped when the National Treasury issued instructions in February 2022 that all government departments must put on hold all procurement in terms of a court order on the legality of Preferential Procurement Regulations,” said Phiri.

Patricia de Lille

In a statement sent to Daily Maverick, Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille said: “I am informed by my department on matters like procurement, as I am not involved as per legislation. Completion of the Mamelodi magistrates’ court project is at a bid evaluation stage under the supervision of the department’s risk management team.

“The aim of the bid evaluation process is to award contracts to two specialist contractors, whose work will result in the completion of the construction of the court project.

“The specialist contractors will be at the construction site in the next coming weeks,” said De Lille.

These are the reasons she provided for the decade-long delay in construction:

  • Community issues and work stoppages since the contract was awarded.
  • Contractor experiencing financial difficulties.
  • Inclusion of the specialised work into the scope of works. This consisted of the installation of a security system and network and telephone, court recording and audio-visual system.

Despite apparent shortcomings in delivery, Mchunu confirmed that Fikile Construction had been retained by his department as the main contractor on the project.

Read about other unfinished projects in Tshwane here: “Tshwane’s stadium that never was: R140m to build, R84m to demolish

The DA’s spokesperson on justice, Glynnis Breytenbach, described the government’s failure to complete the project as “disgraceful”.

“Mamelodi deserves a fully functioning court and access to justice. Lack of proper planning and commitment to finish the court project makes a mockery of access to justice by ordinary South Africans and adds an unnecessary extra burden on the lives of the people of Mamelodi,’’ she said.

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

“This is a classic case of justice delayed is justice denied,’’ said Oupa Mtshwene, leader of a grassroots organisation, Mamelodi Concerned Residents for Service Delivery.

“The continued delay in completing construction of the new court means some residents can’t access the courts. This is a denial of their constitutional right to justice,” said Mtshwene.

“With unemployment having reached such unimaginable proportions, many people who need to visit the magistrates’ court are compelled to beg or borrow transport money from family members, friends and even loan sharks.”

In a separate project, it was reported that Fikile Construction had been withdrawn by the City of Joburg as the contractor for a state-of-the-art primary healthcare clinic in Orange Grove after it failed to meet a September 2019 deadline to complete construction. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • André Pelser says:

    A loota continua!

  • Gerrie Pretorius says:

    With the anc back in charge in J’burg I assume Fikile will also soon be back at the clinic.

  • Louis Potgieter says:

    Such a large proportion of the contract has been paid out that it became uneconomical for the contractor to continue.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    If extortion is happening, it should be reported to the SAPS and Hawks, and they should act. Which is more, if someone purports to be representing the community, I would say that the right thing to do is to go to the municipality, which is the elected body representing the public, and to let them have the final say (within the limits of the law of course). NO willy-nilly actor or organisation has the right to sommer come up to you and demand things on behalf of the community. That is what the council and municipality exists for; and I speak of the council as a unit, not an individual councillor or even ward committee, because businesses like that don’t only give a service to a ward but to the whole community. So it must be the whole council, or if subcouncils exist such as I believe is the case in Cape Town, then at least the subcouncils. Individual councillors don’t have the right to act as kings of some sort, but some of them do; that must also be stopped.

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