The South African

Ace, Zwane ‘knowingly drove unfeasible housing project’

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A familiar name came up at the State Capture Inquiry on Tuesday as Chief Justice Raymond Zondo continued to grill former Free State human settlements head of department Mpho Mokoena over his role in a R1 billion low-cost housing project in his province. Mokoena said that former Premier Ace Magashule is the reason he only lasted two years in the job. 

According Mokoena, Magashule pressurised him into making decisions that he said were not “financially sensible”.

Mokoena tells State Capture Inquiry of pressurisation from Magashule 

According to Mokoena, Magashule had made unrealistic demands of him and the department by making public promises that could not be fulfilled due to budget constraints. 

Many of these promises – which Mokoena described as “honey and milk” on Tuesday – included the controversial Operation Hlasela, which involved housing projects that relied heavily on investment from the private sector. 

“In December 2011, I resigned due to the pressure I was feeling, especially from our Premier, Mr Ace Magashule,” said Mokoena.

“We were under a strict schedule to turn building material we had bought into houses. At the same time, during Operation Hlasela, the Premier would sporadically announce the building of more houses, regardless of him being told we do not have budget,” he said.

He said that Magashule wanted the Department of Human Settlements to increase the size of the houses from around 40 square meters to 50 square meters without increasing the amount paid for the houses, adding that this was obviously impossible.

“My main pressure was to ensure the building material we had already bought must be converted into houses, but when we were busy trying to do so, the Premier continued to allocate to the other side, outside the budget,” he said.

Zwane informed of unfeasible housing costs 

Mokoena also charged that in 2010, former Free State human settlements MEC Mosebenzi Zwane pushed through an “illegal” advance payment scheme for building material amounting to over R500 million, adding that the department had told the delegation from the Free State following its announcement in a meeting that they would need to hand in their resignation letters if they failed to comply.

Mokoena said that Zwane had been told by the provincial department that the scheme was unfeasible, but insisted that it should go ahead anyway.

The scheme consisted of plans to advance payments to contractors in a bid to dodge the end-of-year financial deadline, according to Mokoena.

“After the meeting I approached the MEC and we went back to the boardroom, just the two of us. I repeated that ‘the plan you are suggesting is illegal’,” he said.

Zwane then allegedly told Mokoena that he should resign if he has an issue with the plan, and that he “will be poor because your house and vehicle will be repossessed and your children will be kicked out of school”.

State Capture Inquiry to continue Mokoena probe on Wednesday  

He said that the scheme was implemented despite him having notified Zwane of potential irregularities, and said that upon its instigation, it became clear that the MEC was using the scheme as a vehicle to conduct corrupt business. 

He said that of the list of contractors provided by Zwane, three were close associates of his. 

Despite intervention from then-minister of human settlements Tokyo Sexwale, the scheme progressed. 

“The Minister said he did not agree with the scheme and said it must stop immediately because he was not going to allow this to happen while he is Minister,” charged Mokoena. 

Mokoena’s testimony concludes on Wednesday. 



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