Free homes for select few

Tshwane Metro lease agreements dumped at recycling plant during office move reveal council housing scandal.

The Tshwane metro cop cuts a lonely figure perched on a barrier at the bottom end of De Kock Street in Sunnyside, Pretoria, captured forever in a Google Earth street-view image that was shot in 2015. He is keeping watch over a council house instead of patrolling the streets; his cop car, marked with insignia and fitted with blue lights is parked under a tree 50 metres up the road.

Metro cop at the end of De Kock Street

De Kock Street is in a quiet part of the old suburb and is lined with a row of box-shaped, solid council houses built in the 1930s. It is not at all a bad part of the capital to call home. The Afrikaans High School for Girls is a stone’s throw away, with the Loftus Versfeld Stadium and the University of Pretoria a few blocks to the East.

Finding the metro cop on guard in the Google Earth image was sheer coincidence (call it luck if you want) because I was actually searching for a certain address; the council house at number 567 De Kock Street to be specific. It is one of many properties owned by the Tshwane Metro and usually leased to residents of the city or metro employees who qualify on the basis of their income or the need to be close to their place of work. Their rent ranges between R4,000 and R12,000 per month. The tenants also have to pay for water, sanitation and electricity in the same way that anyone else with a rental contract would be expected to do.

But the people staying at the De Kock Street address are well-off, are not council employees and have not paid rent for many years. In addition, they are still receiving VIP treatment from the Metro Police who provide them with security (see the Google Earth image), upgrades to the property (a palisade fence) and a blue-light escort, whenever requested.

This windfall came the occupants’ way in 2014 after an angry mob trying to lay claim to vacant land in Nellmapius, ransacked the home of Precious Marole who was then ANC councillor for Ward 86 in Nellmapius. After the Metro Police had removed the mob’s illegal structures from the occupied land, their leaders demanded to see councillor Marole. He was not available so they plundered his house and tried to set it alight. On humanitarian grounds and out of fear for the Marole family’s safety the then ANC council in Tshwane moved them “temporarily” to a so-called safe house, which Noseweek has established is number 567 De Kock Street.

The threat against Precious Marole has long since abated and he has not been a councillor since the 2016 local elections. Yet he remains ensconced in the house, while shamelessly ignoring the escalating bills for outstanding rent and services that arrive each month. Meanwhile, his damaged house in Dimakatso Road in Nellmapius was renovated in 2015 – to be leased out as doctors’ rooms, according to newspaper reports. Why not, when you and your family are allowed to stay in a council house in Sunnyside, all expenses paid, courtesy of Tshwane ratepayers?
At the end of May this year Marole’s rent account was R158,214 in arrears and his bill for municipal services stood at R22,000. Official records show that the property’s water, sanitation and pre-paid electricity supply was cut but, curiously, the Maroles still have working lights and running water. The same applies to Marole’s house in Nellmapius, where the outstanding property rates, water and sanitation bill by now totals more than R20,000 and the municipal services have not been discontinued.

It is not as if Marole can plead poverty: he drives a black BMW ci Coupe which he reportedly rents to funeral undertakers for a few thousand rand per day – with himself behind the steering wheel. He is also the director of three active companies.

Marole is but one of several former councillors who are not paying for their council houses in the city. They even run businesses from these residences. Noseweek has obtained records showing how the DA administration in Tshwane has continued to allow former ANC councillors to abuse ratepayers’ money by not paying for municipal services and municipal housing:

Gloria Seoketsa is a former councillor and treasurer of the ANC Women’s League in Tshwane and holds directorships in four private companies. She resides in a council house at number 75 Bond Street, Sunnyside where the rent is R8,126 per month. The records show Seoketsa is a whopping R657,952 in arrears.

♦ Patricia Blaauw is another defaulter. The former ANC councillor is now a deputy director in the office of Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa. Blaauw lives in a council house at 14 Ayton Street, Sunnyside. The monthly rent is R8,864, She owes the Metro R154,575 in outstanding rent. Blaauw is a director of five companies and the Ayton Street council house is the registered address given for some of them, according to company records.

♦ Former MMC for Public Works and Infrastructure Development in Tshwane, Jacob Masango, is R257,893 in arrears for rent and R96,318 for water and sanitation. A big sign on the fence of his council house at 866 Patryshond Street, Garsfontein advertises an event management company that is operating from there.

♦ IT specialist Febridge Lebea has never been a councillor but he is an executive director in the Tshwane Metro. He is also on the board of six private companies and the owner of three properties in Tshwane. Yet he resides in a council house at 1228 Arcadia Street in Hatfield, for which he does not pay rental and is R379,491 in arrears.

Thembi Mmoko

♦ Thembi Mmoko is the former MMC for Corporate and Shared Services, which included the administration of council properties. She is also a former executive member of the ANC Women’s League and a director of seven active companies. She has had a private property registered to her name since 2017 but has been living in a council house at 718 Keisie Street in upmarket Erasmuskloof, where her outstanding rent is R141,618.

Mmoko’s non-payment had already been highlighted in the media in 2015 when the DA’s Elmarie Linde informed the media about nine councillors who were living rent-free in council houses in Tshwane. Linde was then shadow MMC for housing and human settlements in council and the DA was still on the opposition benches, seeking votes in the 2016 local election. After Linde went public, Tshwane spokesperson Blessing Manala told the media that all the councillors were paying rent, specifically mentioning Mmoko and confirming that she was not in arrears. Official municipal records show otherwise.

Linde also referred to the Bond Street property in her 2015 exposé. Without mentioning Gloria Seoketsa by name, she said a former councillor, who was living in Bond Street, was R300,000 in arrears with her rent. Again the media was fed a lie; ANC regional spokesperson, Teboho Joala dismissed Linde’s allegation as “baseless and devoid of truth”.

♦ But the same Gloria Seoketsa now owes Tshwane R657,952 – and Noseweek has the proof.
Linde told Noseweek that she had given a file with the evidence to the Office of the Auditor-General in 2015 but did not follow up because, while she is still a councillor she is no longer involved with housing in Tshwane. She referred us to the current MMC, Izak du Plessis, who did not respond to Noseweek’s phone calls or questions.

The media spokesperson for the Auditor-General, Khutsafalo Mnisi, said the matter was not investigated by the Auditor-General in 2015 but “was responded to through the normal audit processes”. Noseweek could find no reference to this in the A-G reports for Tshwane that have been released since then.

Jailed attorney Mpho Mofomme's office, owned by Tshwane Metro

Noseweek found one more defaulter who must be mentioned because his is such an appalling case. The tenant is Mpho Mofomme of Mofomme Attorneys whose office is in a council house close to the Union Buildings at 467 Belvedere Street, Arcadia, which Mofomme reportedly shares with the ANC Parliamentary Caucus. Their account is R487,456 in arrears for rent and R453,664 for electricity, water and sanitation. 

Mofomme has seven properties, a trust and five companies to his name. He is said to have served at some point on Tshwane’s panel of legal experts.

Whether that is still the case is not clear because he was sentenced to five years in prison, with two  suspended, in 2017 after being found guilty of fraud and defeating the ends of justice.

TimesLive reported on 13 September 2017 that Mofomme and his mistress conspired to divorce his wife fraudulently and without her knowledge. Mofomme had got his mistress‚ Sebi Moche‚ a primary school teacher‚ to pretend to be his wife‚ Marilyn and had her (the mistress) served with divorce papers in an attempt to cheat her out of the couple’s valuable joint estate.

The phones at Mofomme Attorneys are no longer working but his name is still posted on a sign in front of the property.

Tshwane Metro has yet to explain to its ratepayers what criteria were used when these council houses were allocated to councillors and more so, why the residents are still allowed to stay free of charge.

Accounts showing the arrears

Altogether these defaulters owe the council almost R3 million in outstanding rent and municipal services, while rate-paying residents have had to cope with rates increases of 10% per year.

It has been reported that the Metro plans to sell around 155 rental properties on its books. But there’s a snag: Noseweek has established that scores of lease and sales contracts have been lost. They apparently landed up at a paper-recycling site when the various departments moved to the new municipal headquarters, Tshwane House, in 2017. There was not enough room at Tshwane House for the hundreds of written agreements on file so they were simply left behind at the old offices. When no arrangement was subsequently made to collect the files, the landlord called in the city’s informal paper collectors who must have had a field day.

With important records missing (in other departments as well) the metro has now been forced to put out a public notice in newspapers, calling on members of the public and legal entities to submit their lease and sales agreements relating to municipal-owned land and buildings. The notice says the city is embarking on a review and assessment of all agreements but informed sources have told Noseweek that the lost documents have plunged the city’s property management into chaos.

Shortly before Noseweek went to press, Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa called to say he had requested an audit of all council properties shortly after he took office earlier this year and expects to receive the audit report in July. It will reveal which tenants are improperly resident in council properties and who is in arrears.

“They will be punished. We have to deal with it once and for all,” he said.

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