The Bitou Wavelengths land deal

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Drewan Baird. Oudtshoorn. 22 May 2013. 05h45. O!O is of the opinion that the WC Minister of Human Settlements, Bonginkosi Madikizela, did not act prudently in transferring the money to Bitou to pay for the Wavelengths land.

It is sepcifically noted that the then municipal manager, Lonwabo Ngoqo, was acquitted on appeal on all charges relating to the deal on 22 October 2012.

Drewan Baird. Oudtshoorn. 21 May 2013. 06h20. O!O first addressed the Wavelengths Bitou land for housing deal on November 28, 2011.

With the verdict of the subsequent High Court action to be appealed O!O thought it apposite to write the WC Minister of Human Settlements, Bonginkosi Madikizela, for clarity.

Dear sir

On March 7, 2011, Lonwabo Ngoqo, then municipal manager of the ANC controlled Bitou Municipality, entered into a real estate contract with Wavelengths 255 (Pty) Ltd for the acquisition by Bitou of two stretches of land, for purposes of human settlement, in the amount of R28.5m; the purchase price being based on a valuation by the Port Elizabeth firm of Majola and Boyd. The valuators charged R50,000 for their effort.

You duly transferred the money to Bitou on March 31, to be paid to Wavelengths subject to a valuation of the land to your satisfaction.

I note that Province receives national allocations based on the amounts it spends on human settlements and the R28.5m transfer, on the last day of the national Government’s Financial Year, obviously boosted the Western Cape’s spend dramatically.

There is a general suspicion that I suffer sporadic bursts of skepticism, and I’ll have you know that I am harbouring thoughts of fiscal dumping right about now.

A DA provincial minister makes available R28.5m to an ANC Council some 6 weeks before an election… if you leave loaded guns on the street, disaster will follow.

On April 27, Plettenberg Bay was the scene of the Mother of all Freedom Day celebrations.

A municipality that could hardly pay it’s staff, spent R172,000 on T-shirts.

A municipality that could hardly pay it’s creditors, spent R56,000 on “tjops” and “wors”.

O, and some R1,000 was spent on vegetables… keepin’ things healthy and green and all.

In answer to the call for traditional cuisine, pots and buckets were hired from members of the community. Plastic buckets, for example, selling at some R50 at the local co-op, were hired for two days – at R40 per day.

But back to the R28.5m transfer for payment to Wavelengths subsequent to a second valuation.

When the deal was presented to Council in January, the Director Corporate Services noticed that the CFO’s comment was not recorded. He approached the CFO – the late Deon Lott, and Lott, on advice from the man from Corporate Services, duly recorded the municipal value of the land: R2.4m!

Why nobody queried the R28.5m price tag?

Why, the municipal manager, Ngoqo, apparently erased Lott’s inscription on the documents presented to Council!

The deal was voted through.

You received your second opinion on the value of the land originally valued at R28.5m, 7 days before the transfer on March 31. This second valuation, by provincially appointed consultants, DDP, valued the land at R2.1m.

There was a R26.4m discrepancy between the two valuations. And you knew of the second valuation 7 days before he authorised the transfer of R28.5m.

Because of the enormous difference in the valuations, Province approached the council for appraisers and received a third valuation – for R4.1m.

You then told Ngoqo to hang ten.

For four months nothing happened. Nothing except the Freedom Day party, that is.

O, and another thing happened… Lott, the CFO, used some R14m of the R28.5m to cover “running costs” which probably included the Freedom Day party that must have gained the ANC at least a smattering of votes some 3 weeks later.

When Wavelengths, eagerly desirous for its R28.5m, as we all would be, sued Bitou in early August, you suddenly wanted your money back… only to be told that it was gone. Or, at least half of it was gone.

Ngoqo claimed that he and the Director-General in your department, M T Tshangana, were “pals” and that Province would not act on its claim for the money back.

In evidence before retired Appeals Court Justice Peet Combrinck, in the disciplinary hearing of Ngoqo, Tshangana testified, on 22 November, that you knew of the second valuation of R2.1m before the R28.5m was transferred; and that Ngoqo’s claim that the money need not be repaid to Western Cape Human Settlements was devoid of all reality.

Lott, in his evidence, readily admitted to the fact that he, and he alone, on his own volition, so to speak, decided to apply the money to meet short term liabilities.

Please indicate, expeditiously and by return email, reasons for the R28.5m payment in the face of diverse valuations of significantly lower amounts.

I believe you will visit Oudtshoorn this week – maybe you’d prefer to discuss this matter face to face?

O, a word to the wise: your Leader of Government Business warns against communication with me… Do not heed his advice, it is very, very bad counsel indeed. Atrocious, even.

Yours truly

The minister replied:

Good day Mr Baird

Your insinuations have made me to come to a conclusion that you are a conspiracy theorist.

I’m not sure in what capacity you are writing to me, my first instinct was to ignore your email, but then again I decided to set the record straight:

For your information, plans to assist Bitou Municipality to buy the land were discussed long before R29m was budgeted for and subsequently transferred.

I personally went to inspect the land myself with some of my officials and I voiced my reservations on the suitability of it being used for Human Settlements which is why we asked independent valuers to value it.

As u you said yourself, I was concerned with huge disparities in terms of different outcomes of valuations between the Municipal one and ours.

There is nothing untoward in transferring money that is budgeted for into municipal account as long as you put clear conditions for it to be used for what it is intended for as we did.

Your theory that this was a fiscal dumping is exactly that, a theory. You also insinuate that there was a suspicion of collusion between my HOD (not DG) and the municipal Manager. The question is, why would the HOD agree to put conditions on the transfer if that was the case?

I put it to you Sir, you are fishing in a pond. I cannot be drawn into how and what the Municipality does with its money, I have no control over that. But if the Human Settlements money is used for what it is not intended for, then I have to ask the Municipality to pay it back.

And just so you know, I’ll copy Theuns Botha on this email.

Regards

BS Madikizela

Nógals!

I answered:

My dear Mr Madikizela

Thank you for the reply which was read with growing mirth.

Slice this up as you will, but explain to me why R28.5m was transferred to buy land your consultants valued at R2.1m (before the transfer!), and after you “personally went to inspect the land yourself with some of your officials and voiced reservations on the suitability…”

Your washing of hands in the selfsame bowl used once by Pilate alarms.

You signed “BS” Madikizela. Is that just a cruel coincidence?

The minister could not resist, and proved to be a sprightly correspondent – his colleagues should take a leaf…

You are not only a conspiracy theorist Mr Baird but a master of sarcasm as well.

Because that is what was budgeted for to buy land. The initial indication from the municipality was that R29m will be needed, which is why we reserved it and eventually transferred it subject to conditions outlined before.

While I voiced my reservations about its suitability, I couldn’t make a decision on on the spot because I’m not an expert on land valuations.

I don’t know about ‘cruel coincidence’ u are talking about but those are my initials.

Regards

Noujatoé.

Not good enough, Mr Madikizela.

A municipality tells you it needs R28.5m to buy something your advisors estimate to be worth R2.1m and you pay because “it is budgeted”!?

Not good enough, Mr Madikizela.

At the risk of being conspiratorial, you are a member of the DA, are you not? And at the risk of sarcasm, the DA does stand for public responsibility, does it not?

JEF opened the matter again in October 2012 when O!O also provided an overview of the matter.

Is summat amiss here?

You decide.

________________________________________________________
DREWAN BAIRD COMMUNICATIONSensaytional – 076 349 6316
Making sure they see it your way
________________________________________________________

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3 thoughts on “The Bitou Wavelengths land deal

  1. Why don’t you save us the trouble Brummer and give us the gory detail?

  2. There is “something off” but not what you think. Go and look at the council agendas, registrar of company records and deeds registry and all will be revealed….

  3. Ed, ek reken BS staan vir Bull S— as ek Madikizela se totale swak redenasie en onvermoe so bespeur.

    Daar is nou n gaping vir ODN. Vir al jul verlore en gesteelde belastings, budget vir so n R100 miljoen vir Human Settlements en soek vir n lappie grond om dit te rugsteun en eis dit van BS Madikezela se Dept. Weier hy om te betaal, gaan Wavelengths in sy gesig ontplof.

    Betaal hy, gaan jul grootste uitdaging wees om te sien daardie R100 miljoen word korrek spandeer, nie op ‘waistful and corrupt expenditure” nie !

    Sterkte

    PS Het Bredell en Madikezela al bedank ?
    (Wie in hemelsnaam het die spul so vereer met die titel ‘Mediocre Men” Hul word ver te veel gekomplimenteer teenoor dit wat hul werklik bevoeg voor is, korrek ?)

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