Qolweni housing project needs urgent resolution
I am deeply concerned with the continued delay of the Qolweni Phase 3A Housing project in the Bitou Municipal area.
The Western Cape Government has consistently offered to assist the municipality should they be unable to commence with this project. Regrettably, unless a formal request is received from Council for the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements (WCDoHS) to take over this project, we’re not able to do so.
This project, which has a budget allocation of R 33, 5 million for construction and professional fees, was approved in October 2019. Construction of 169 units had to commence in January 2021.
The facts in this matter are:
- On 01 December 2020 Bitou Municipality appointed Ukhana Projects CC as the contractor for this development.
- The site was handed over to Ukhana on the 25 January 2021.
- Subsequent to the site handover on 25 January 2021, as instructed by the Bitou Municipality, many delays occurred on site due to relocations. The re-location plan as drawn up and provided by the municipality was incomplete, and in some cases un-workable. Relocations must take place, as the land earmarked for the top structures was, and still partially is, occupied by informal dwellings.
- To further complicate the re-location process, there was a significant push back and lack of co-operation from some sectors of the community, who refused to co-operate, and virtually halted the process. The community pressurised the municipality to accelerate the process, which also contributed to the pre-mature site handover. The supply of materials for the Temporary Residential Areas (TRA’s) by the municipality also had challenges, and processes had to be revised.
- On 12 April 2021, the Bitou Municipality informed WCDoHS that they have terminated the contract with Ukhana. This termination is being disputed by the contractor, and this has resulted in a stalemate between the municipality and the contractor.
- The WCDoHS received a request from the Municipal Manager, Advocate Ngoqo, to intervene in the contractual dispute between the Bitou Municipality and the Contractor.
- During May 2021, the WCDoHS mediated in the process and through the services of an external service provider, presented a written opinion on the lawfulness of the termination, by the Municipality of the above-mentioned contract.
- The parties were advised to enter into an amicable settlement agreement. This was rejected by Ukhana and instead they’ve opted to approach the courts for relief.
It must also be stated that the contractor has sought to interdict the WCDoHS and / the municipality from appointing a new contractor to complete the works. Even though Ukhana has taken this matter to the court, the WCDoHS has not received any papers to this effect.
My appeal to all parties is to remain calm and to find a speedy resolution to this matter. I call on community members to continue engaging their municipal officials. In due course I will also be visiting the area for various engagements on this matter.
As the WCDoHS, we remain committed to this project and sufficient funding has been set aside – but the responsibility lies with the Municipality to complete the project – unless it is officially handed over to us.