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METRO CENTRE EXCESS

Joburg coalition plans to blow R2-billion on tarting up its own offices as city services collapse 

Joburg coalition plans to blow R2-billion on tarting up its own offices as city services collapse 
General view during the City of Johannesburg council meeting to discuss vote for Section 79 portfolio on January 27, 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images/Papi Morake)

At the same time, it’s signing a R1.8-billion World Bank loan to fund shortfalls.

The new Joburg mayor

mayors

New Johannesburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda of Al-Jama-ah. He was elected at the 16th extraordinary council meeting on 5 May 2023 after the resignation of Al Jama-ah’s Thapelo Amad from the position in April 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sydney Seshibedi)

and the City’s ANC-led coalition are expected to ink a deal that will cost R2-billion to refurbish the Metro Centre, which has fallen into disrepair and after an adverse health and safety inspection.

But the opposition says this is a waste as city services collapse in the country’s financial capital.

 

The City is in financial distress and plans to borrow R5.5-billion over the medium term; it is also about to sign a loan deal with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation for R1.8-billion this year.

After a fire on the ground floor of the metro building in March, the plans have been accelerated.

In a proposal to Gwamanda’s first council sitting on Friday 12 May, the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) says health and safety inspectors found the building unsafe in a July 2022 inspection. It says that civil and structural challenges have rendered it “inhabitable [sic], hazardous and a life-threatening risk to all its occupants”.

The JPC proposes two options, both equally expensive. It wants to “decant” staff into new office space for periods ranging from five years to almost 10 years, costing an estimated R120-million a year.

Then, it wants to refurbish the metro building at an additional cost. “The kind of refurbishment is required to comply with the Confirmatory Notice (of the Department of Employment and Labour) and Engineers Report is currently estimated at R800-million.” 

The JPC proposes two options: to fund the repairs and the refurb off the balance sheet or to enter into a public-private partnership (PPP) where a private company or consortium undertakes the repairs and extensions and then leases the property back to the City with repayments, usually over 20 years.

Council chambers, Metro Centre

Council chambers during the 16th extraordinary council meeting which has the election of a new mayor for the City of Johannesburg as an item on 5 May, 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images/Sydney Seshibedi)

A privately built and run state-of-the-art Joburg City campus

The MMC for Finance, Dada Morero, told Daily Maverick that the City had already lodged the PPP with the National Treasury. This extended plan includes a campus including private offices, restaurants and retail, city offices, a city hall, and a public and private metro square.

“The calculations estimated that the complete redevelopment of the Metro Centre will be R2-billion. The City will put the existing land and buildings as part of the PPP. We will only fund the PPP if it is for bulk services. This is how we do our land developments. We provide the land and the private sector with the funding.

“The R850-million is for when we don’t use the PPP model but we decided to only refurbish the current building. I must add that the Project has been registered with the National Treasury,” said Morero.

DA councillor and representative for Group Corporate and Shared Services (which oversees facilities) Leah Knott said Council had not passed the PPP. All capital projects have to be approved by the Council.

“Engineers confirmed that the building is not in danger of collapsing,” said Knott, who said the JPC had been trying to put through the big spend for years. “These are fixable issues that the City can achieve by moving people out of sections of the building. It’s items like fixing the lifts, putting strips on stairs and corridor lighting. You can fix most things in three months. Engineers (said they) can’t confirm that the building is in danger of collapsing.” She said that the JPC failed to maintain the Metro Centre adequately. 

“The City should be prioritising water, electricity and refuse collection. City Power is in crisis,” said Knott. 

City services collapsing

According to officials, Johannesburg power cuts and rolling blackouts mean the City is effectively on Stage 8 or Stage 9 blackouts. Citizens regularly have multi-day power cuts as City Power battles to tamp down an R9.11-billion overdraft. Councillors say the entity has lost R1.36-billion in the past three months as collections are down. It has been late paying contractors and suffered shortages of parts, extending the time of outages.

Michelle Banda has reported on the Joburg Water crisis here and here

Electricity, water and rates tariffs are set to go up by 18.65%; 9.3% and 5.3%, respectively, but a property revaluation could see increases shoot up if objections are not successful. 

According to reports, Johannesburg has more than 30,000 open potholes and reinstatement holes (when water pipe repairs leave gashes in roads) at any one time. The R2-billion for the refurbishment will come from services, says Nott. “It’s a tenderpreneur scheme waiting to happen,” she believes. Tenderpreneurship is where businesses close to politicians in power win government tenders and make substantial profit margins. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • David Easterling says:

    “Uninhabitable, hazardous, and a life threatening risk”. Sounds like a good description of the pit latrines that still exist at many schools. Clearly these politicians worry far more about their own bloated backsides than they do about our kids.

  • Rob Scott says:

    The council could borrow a trillion rand and its still will be a filthy cesspool

  • William Kelly says:

    A tenderpreneur plunder? Really? Really? I don’t believe that! Not for one second! But let us see who our new mayor favours – will it be split down ANC/EFF support percentages I wonder?

  • Carolyn Petersen says:

    Throwing tge DA out of power in Johannesburg paved the way for corruption to carry on. The puppet Mayor from a minority party sings to the tune of those who put him in the position. Johannesburg is a crumbling hovel but we must keep paying for no service delivery and corrupt governance

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Blatant theft in the broad light of day with nary a thought of embarrassment or shame whilst the tax and rate payer continues having to foot the bill.!

  • Hermann Funk says:

    This city is governed by fools.

  • Maria Janse van Rensburg says:

    When I hear an announcement like this, the first though that comes to mind is that these politicians do not have a clue what their real mandate is. The municipal offices must be functional and safe, not a showpiece to make the administration feel grand. The ANC entered into a similar PPP in Tshwane where municipal land was provided, and a totally inadequate building – Tshwane House – was constructed by a private company. An opportunity to house all departments that are located in buildings all over the city was lost and the municipality is locked in an expensive lease agreement for years to come. The Johannesburg municipality should be focusing on collecting outstanding accounts so it can fund its core business and that is to provide essential services. Without proper working infrastructure, no business can function, let alone prosper. No creches/schools/universities, hospitals, clinics, police stations, public transport, traffic lights or residential homes can work properly. The result – thousands of productive hours lost, frustration, inconvenience, lost job opportunities, anger and ultimately a feeling of utter hopelessness. The new administration must only fix those items in the Metro Centre that are listed in the report by the labour department and then read Schedules 4B and 5B of the Constitution, memorise it and test any contemplated action against it.

  • Thinker and Doer says:

    There is no way that such massive amounts of funds to refurbish the Metro Centre, when City Power, Joburg water and the roads are falling apart. All funds must be directed to these fundamental services. These politicians are treating the City as their playground and looking for any possible means to enrich themselves. Rate payers must somehow make it very clear that this nonsense must stop.

  • ROY CLARKE says:

    I see it’s a 20 year deal. Funny that. Same as the karpower ships and the Rosatom Nuclear proposal. It looks like the ANC is securing their pensions for 20 years for when they lose the election

  • William Dryden says:

    This is why we must push for the DA to win the 2024 elections, and then prosecute the thieves within the ANC and EFF parties.

  • Johan Buys says:

    This PPP will end in the same bin as that billion runt football sponsorship.

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