27 February 2012

Released document provides target for Kwa Masiza hostel residents’ advocacy efforts

SAHA recently received a response to a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request that will assist residents of the Kwa Masiza hostel in Sebokeng to focus their demands for infrastructure improvement, service delivery, and security of tenure.

The Right2Know Campaign, of which SAHA is a member, met with residents of Sebokeng last year as part of a community engagement initiative. The residents of that region explained some of their most pressing concerns and identified what kind of information would help their community achieve progress. The community members identified information about ownership of the Kwa Masiza hostel as being one important topic.

Members of the community described a series of battles and conflicting information over who owns the hostel as a major problem. These disagreements have resulted in harm to the residents of the property to the point where they have felt abandoned in terms of the deteriorating quality of services provided and quality of the building itself. They have had to resist eviction on a number of occasions as well. They hoped to identify the owner of the hostel in order to advocate for better services and infrastructure and to secure their tenure.

According to the document released by the Emfuleni local municipality, the Kwa Masiza hostel in Sebokeng is owned by the municipality, who intends to refurbish the property with the "possible and necessary help of the Gauteng Provincial Government." No details on plans for refurbishment were provided.

The document showing ownership of the property also reveals a series of transfers that raise questions. For example, the document shows a purchase by Yscor Ltd. in the amount of R500 000 in 1994 and a subsequent transfer in 2001 to VICVA Investments for R5 million. In 2011, there was another sale of the property to the municipality for R15.5 million

According to local residents, VICVA Investments was a company set up by ANC councilors and municipal officials when the property was bought. That company gained R10.5 million in profit from the public purse through the purchase of the hostel. Given the testimony of local residents on the disrepair of the building, it does not appear that any improvements have been made that would justify the monumental increase in value that is suggested by the purchase price.

If private parties abused their positions as councilors and officials to influence the purchase and sale of the Kwa Masiza hostel to the benefit of a company owned by those individuals, the millions of rand in profit that resulted should be accounted for and any wrongdoing flowing from these transactions must be investigated and punished under the law.

Copies of the released documents are available in the SAHA's collections, archived as "Memorandum relating to PAIA request number 2011/0162/EMF" and "Deeds Office Property - Sebokeng" respectively:

Freedom of Information Programme Collection: AL2878_B01.19.1

Freedom of Information Programme Collection: AL2878_B01.19.2

For more information on this story, please contact the FOIP team at SAHA.