Poor management of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure’s property portfolio placing residents at risk 

Issued by Sello Seitlholo MP – DA Shadow Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure
02 Jun 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Sello Seitlholo MP. See photos here and here.

The Democratic Alliance will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Department of Public Work’s (DPWI) Property Management Trading Entity after it has become increasingly clear that its failure to properly manage its property portfolio is posing serious security risks to communities across the country.

Together with the City of Cape Town Ward 62 Councillor, Emile Langenhoven, I conducted an oversight visit to DPWI properties in the area where it became clear that, due to prolonged neglect, they have become staging centres for criminal activity and vagrant behaviour – forcing nearby communities to live in fear. Residents have since started a petition calling on DPWI to demolish the derelict buildings which they will submit to the portfolio committee of public works in Parliament.

Despite commitment to demolish DPWI properties in Waterloo Green, Wynberg, back in February 2022, and provide security to protect these properties from illegal occupation, the department has dismally failed. To give context, Waterloo Green has three DPWI buildings of which one is completely destroyed with one being illegally occupied by drug dealers and prostitutes. These are buildings that residents considered to be of historical value due to the Victorian-style-built houses. The deterioration of these buildings started 10 years ago and any alarm sounded back then has fallen on deaf ears.

Residents spoke about how they are fearful of being killed in their own homes with one member having been held at gunpoint and knife on the throat. One resident narrates a gruesome scene of a gangster bleeding from the throat on the corner of the property. There has been a drop in the property value of homes nearby said properties.

In 2020, the four schools within the area, namely, Wynberg Girls High School, Wynberg Boys High School, Springfield Convent and Simon van der Stel Primary School, made a formal application submission to lease these properties from DPWI to render them useable and also to protect the learners from incidents of muggings as has been a daily occurrence in the area with schools having had to hire private security to protect the learners.

Given that one of the external initiatives of the department is using infrastructure for economic growth to ensure that infrastructure is used as a catalyst to drive growth and employment through partnership with the private sector (PPPs) on programmes such as Refurbish, Operate and Transfer (ROT). This further speaks to the failure of the department to even keep to its own adopted initiatives.

In a portfolio committee meeting of public works and infrastructure held on 31 May 2023, the acting Director General of DPWI Ms Nyeleti Makhubele, acknowledged that properties belonging to the DPWI were being illegally invaded, but did not provide any urgent steps that the department will take to work with municipalities and other stakeholders to safeguard said properties from illegal invasions.

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