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Lottery-funded Soweto ‘sports complex’ a stagnant dumpsite devoid of construction

Lottery-funded Soweto ‘sports complex’ a stagnant dumpsite devoid of construction
The site of the R9-million sports complex in Soweto funded by the National Lotteries Commission is used for dumping rubbish. (Photo: Masego Mafata)

The National Lotteries Commission is trying to get back R6-million awarded to the Motheo Sports and Entertainment Foundation.

Two years after the National Lotteries Commission approved a grant of R9-million to Motheo Sports and Entertainment Foundation to build a “sports complex” in Soweto, the empty site is being used as a dumping ground.

The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) has stopped payment of the final tranche of the grant, after Motheo failed to submit progress reports. Steps have also begun to recover the R6-million already paid out.

A January 2022 Google Street View shows a fence around the barren field. But when GroundUp visited the field, the fence was no longer there and piles of dumped rubbish were scattered across the property between patches of overgrown grass. In the middle of the field is a gravel soccer pitch and rusted goalposts.

The funds were allocated to Motheo in terms of the NLC’s controversial proactive funding policy, which was at the heart of the looting of the Lottery. Proactive funding was introduced in an amendment to the Lotteries Act that was promulgated in 2015. This allowed the Minister of Trade and Industry, who has oversight of the NLC, or the NLC in consultation with its board, to fund projects without requiring an application.

NLC spokesperson Idaho Sengani said that files relating to the project — and all the other proactively funded projects — have been seized by the Special Investigating Unit.

Sengani said Motheo was allocated R9-million on 13 May 2021. The first tranche of R3-million was paid in June 2021 and the second tranche, also R3-million, was paid in February 2022.

It is clear that the second tranche was paid without any site visit by the NLC, which would have revealed that a year after the first tranche, there had been no progress on the sports complex.

Since then things have changed at the NLC, following the resignation under a cloud last year of former commissioner Thabang Mampane and chief operating officer Phillemon Letwaba, and the suspension of several senior officials who are facing disciplinary inquiries. The entire NLC board has also been replaced.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Lottery’s Phillemon Letwaba resigns under a cloud ahead of disciplinary hearing

When an NLC’s monitoring and evaluation team did conduct a site visit in January this year, they found the empty field, Sengani said. A letter was sent to Motheo requesting a report on progress on the sports complex within 30 days. When there was no response, a “14-day reminder letter” was sent.

But Motheo failed to submit the report, though it is a requirement of all Lottery grants for projects funded by the NLC, Sengani told GroundUp.

“The organisation subsequently requested an extension on the submission of the progress report. The request was denied by the NLC,” said Sengani.

Following the site visit and Motheo’s failure to submit the progress report, the NLC withdrew the R3-million still outstanding from the grant. “The matter has been escalated for further investigation and handed over to the NLC’s Legal Services Division for the recovery of funds,” said Sengani.

It is not clear whether Motheo is a non-profit organisation or a non-profit company, as the organisation is neither listed in the Department of Social Development’s register of non-profit organisations nor, as far as we can ascertain, with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission. The organisation does not have a website or any social media presence, yet it received millions in Lottery funding.

Soweto Lottery funding, sports complex

“Coming soon”, but there is no sign of any progress. (Photo: Masego Mafata)

The only sign of the funded development in Extension 3, Protea Glen, is a weather-beaten sign reading “sports complex coming soon”, sporting the organisation’s logo. The rusting board claims that an athletics track, a multi-sport court and an “Olympic pool” will be included in the sports complex.

Resident Pule Oliphant said the fence around the field had been stolen for scrap metal to sell for cash.

“This field has become a dumping site,” she said. “Weeks, and sometimes months, will pass before the rubbish is collected. I don’t recall seeing people coming to work on building sports grounds on this field,” said Oliphant.

Isaac Khosa, a street trader whose stall is located on the edge of the field, said he had not seen much activity involving the development. “They came to level the ground but after that, there has not been much work done,” he said.

Malesela Johannes Khoza who, according to his LinkedIn profile, is the organisation’s deputy chairperson, did not respond to questions from GroundUp. In his profile, Khoza describes himself as “…the Guy you call when you out of options. A vast experience in getting the job done. A HUSTLER’S HUSTLER.”

Khoza referred GroundUp to Petrus Sedibe, of Motheo, saying: “I would have loved to respond to all your questions. Unfortunately I was involved in the sports complex project as a community member and had no knowledge of any financial or administrative functions nor have any knowledge of correspondence between NLC and Motheo.”

GroundUp has not been able to confirm Sedibe’s position in Motheo. He failed to respond to emails and WhatsApp messages sent to him, despite several follow-up calls.

Residents living near the field said they had only ever seen a representative from Motheo at a community meeting last year. Many residents that we spoke to said they had never heard of Motheo before the meeting.

Ward 13 councillor Bawinile Magwaza said Sedibe had told her earlier this year that the development had stalled because of issues regarding land ownership. Magwaza said Sedibe had told her that the land belonged to the Gauteng Department of Education.

“They said work on the development will resume once they have concluded their negotiations with the government about the land.”

Like the other residents we spoke to, Magwaza said that the first she knew of Motheo was when she heard about the development of a sports complex. She said Motheo had not done work in the ward before.

Questions sent on 27 February to the Gauteng government to determine the land owners have not been answered. This is despite follow-up emails, WhatsApp messages and calls. DM

First published by GroundUp.

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