Broken promises for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
A shiny silver fence is the only sign of anything new at the house where Winnie Madikizela-Mandela spent nine years in exile. The dilapidated house still stands, with peeling paint, and windows gaping open to reveal charred walls.
All the promises made to erect a proud museum to preserve her legacy when the Struggle icon died on April 2 last year have not been fulfilled.
A wooden shack where the security guard sits meets you at the gate. The three-roomed house has a kitchen, bedroom and sitting room. Inside there are many two-litre cool drink bottles filled with water. The security informed us it was water for their toilet use, as they have had water interruptions in the area for weeks.
The house in Brandfort, Free State, was to be turned into a museum and construction was meant to have started on April 1 last year.
Sadly, Madikizela-Mandela died a day after refurbishments were meant to have begun.
Despite promises made by the department of arts & culture, it is apparent that no restorative work has been done.
The department states in a press release dated April 11 2018 that it became involved in the project in 2012 and entered into an agreement with the Independent Development Trust (IDT) and the Free State department of sport, arts & culture (DSACR). An amount of R3m was allocated for the project.
However, in 2013 the project stalled due to the contractor citing disputes with the IDT. An amount of R1,858,195.71 was paid to the IDT. R593,622.29 from that money is said to have been used to pay the contractor and architect. Unsatisfied with the IDT, the department of arts & culture terminated its agreement with it in 2016, as stated in their statement.
The department had committed to restoring the house and the clinic situated within the yard, which was bombed, and "converting them to interpretative spaces". The project promised a parking space for visitors and a multipurpose centre with Wi-Fi facilities.
In March last year, Risimati Consulting Engineers was contracted to take over the refurbishment. When approached for comment it forwarded Sunday World's queries to the arts & culture department, citing that talking to the media would be a breach of contract. The department had not responded by the time of going to print.
Last year, the DA leader in the Free State, Patricia Kopane, wrote to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) alleging fraud and misappropriation of project funds. Kopane said she's still awaiting action from the SIU.
"I went to see them and I wrote a letter to them and they responded definitely that they have an interest in the matter."
Kopane said that more than R14m was budgeted for the house, R3m of which has already been spent.
"There's nothing that shows that there was R3m spent there, nothing. They just claim it was for the design and whatever but there's nothing in place; there's just a Wendy house for the security guard to stay there.
"I have been there several times... nothing has changed but the money has been spent. Every time the ANC goes there, they would tell the people of Brandfort ... tomorrow the contractors are coming. There was never a contractor, there will never be a contractor.
"The money was taken and was never used for the intention of building that house or to turn it into a museum."