Johannesburg – Mosebenzi Zwane has testified at the Zondo commission that he was unaware of the existence of a Housing Act when he held the position of MEC for human settlements in the Free State.
Zwane appeared at the inquiry on Friday. He had served as MEC in the Free State between 2009 until February 2011 before being removed.
He faced tough questions at the commission regarding his oversight role and allegations that he illegally pushed for over 100 contractors to be appointed to build 14 000 houses as part of R1 billion Free State housing project.
Zwane was accused by witnesses that appeared at the inquiry earlier this week that, in 2010, the Free State department of human settlements faced the threat of a housing grant being withdrawn by the national government because of underspending.
Zwane is said to have spearheaded a plan to ensure that millions of rand were spent in prepayment to contractors and suppliers for houses that were not delivered.
The witnesses said Zwane’s plan was motivated in ensuring the funds would not be taken by the national government and that is what motivated irregular spending linked to the project.
Zwane denied the accusations against him.
Advocate Paul Pretorius, the evidence leader, questioned Zwane on whether he knew at the time of the existence of a Housing Act which gave him various powers, one of those powers was the ability to appoint a board of advisers for housing.
Zwane said he was unaware of this act. He said he was never alerted to it by his subordinates, but insisted he knew the prescripts of financial management legislation governing departments.
Zwane was even unable to answer questions linked to the act and asked that he be given time to go through the act at a later stage.
The former MEC’s lack of knowledge on key legislation came as a surprise to Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
“It is a matter of concern to me that there is an act (Housing Act) that the MEC responsible for human settlements knows nothing about it for a year in office.
’’One would have expected that they (MEC) would want to to be familiar with the rules and their ability to perform oversight over the HOD (head of department),” Zondo said.
Zwane said nobody, including the HOD, had drawn his attention to the act.
“I did my best under what the PFMA requires. I was a MEC that followed the prescripts of the law as much I could understand them. At that time I thought I was doing my job within the prescripts,” he said.
Zondo reiterated his shock: “It is rather shocking to me that the MEC of housing does not know that there is a Housing Act in the country that applies to his portfolio”.
Zwane was also shown a media statement released by the department of human settlements in the Free State in January 2011. The statement claims the department was on track to deliver 10 000 houses by the end of the financial year which would end in March 2011.
Witnesses, including the department’s former HOD, Mpho Mokoena, testified that this statement was misleading and there was no way the department would have been able to deliver that amount of houses within a short period.
Zwane said he was unaware how many houses were completed by the time. He also denied ever signing off on the press statement which claimed 10 000 houses would be built.
The former MEC said his worry was never about money, but rather about ensuring that houses were delivered to citizens.
Evidence presented at the commission stated that over R500 million was paid to contractors and suppliers in prepayments within a short space of time despite work not being delivered.