Roy Jankielsohn MPL
DA Member of the Free State Legislature
The comments made by the NCOP members during a follow up visit to the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality regarding dismal service delivery are an acknowledgement of Premier Ace Magashule’s and Operation Hlasela failures.
Although members of the NCOP expressed their concerns over various other failed projects, there was specific criticism towards the Operation Hlasela flagship, the Dyatalawa Agri-Village Project between Harrismith and Kestell. This project plans to see a functional dairy, orchards, and crops grown to support the 50 families who reside there. Houses have been built as well as a crèche, a school and hostel for learners.
Although solar power is used extensively as a source of energy at the project, electricity, water, and sanitation remain a problem. Irrigation for the orchard and the dairy require a great deal of water. Furthermore the project has been burdened with controversial cattle deals and questions have arisen over nepotism in contracts. To date beneficiaries have limited sources of income, a situation that they have been facing since 2010 when they were forced by the department to sell their own cattle.
In reply to a question in the legislature in 2010, the former MEC for Public Works and Rural Development, Ms F. Ngubentombi, through the information provided, admitted that the department paid R3 738 000 to a company called Kamsherai for a very controversial deal to buy cattle for the Diyatalawa project. Kamsherai was contracted to buy 240 beef and 120 dairy cattle for the Diyatalawa Agri-Village project between Harrismith and Kestell on behalf of the department. In her reply the MEC indicated that R9 200 each was paid for the beef and R12 750 for the dairy cattle. Shortly after the purchase of the cattle I visited the project and indicated in a report to the legislature (submitted to the Speaker on 5 October 2010) that the cattle purchased were in a very poor condition and were of mixed breeds and not the Simbras and Holsteins as promised to beneficiaries.
The MEC indicated to the Portfolio Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development in 2010 that those cattle would be sold and replaced by decent cattle. This implies that the cattle that were bough were not according to the specifications and had to be replaced. Furthermore, I was informed by beneficiaries at the time of my visit that only about 65 dairy cattle and about 160 beef cattle had been purchased in this controversial transaction. To date the cattle continue to be a source of contention and it is still not clear where the cattle for the dairy will come from or when this project will be functional.
A company search indicated that the company Kamsherai was registered on 12 October 2009. The MEC indicated that the company was appointed by the Department of Rural Development on 2 November 2009. The company appears to have been established for the purpose of obtaining this lucrative contract and could not have been appointed on any track record. Kamsherai had one member namely Mr Mmoledi Petrus Moloi.
In 2010 Kamsherai received R2,5 million as part of a R250 000 a month contract whilst according to the former MEC: “paper work was to be finalized later” regarding that appointment. This lucrative contract commenced on 2 November 2009 and was to run until April 2014.
The shock and dismay expressed by the NCOP on the Diyatalawa and other projects this week is a ray of hope that somewhere people are realising that the Free State Provincial Government’s communication empire is spewing out propaganda. The DA has been monitoring the Diyatalawa project since 2010 and I have made regular visits to the project. The various visits to this project indicate that while tens of millions of rands have been spent on infrastructure over the past three years, the people living on and around Diyatalawa are still without a sustainable source of income.
What the NCOP have in fact indicated with their concerns around the Premier’s flagship Hlasela project, is that Operation Hlasela is not as it is projected to be by the Premier’s multi-million rand communication campaigns.
A governing regime is in serious danger when it starts to believe its own propaganda.