The Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, arguably South Africa’s oldest working building, is entrusted to the Defence and Military Veterans Ministry for safekeeping as a site of national historical significance, and with numerous allegations of corruption and cronyism now levelled against its management, an urgent investigation has been called for.
The allegations were made to opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow deputy defence and military veterans minister, Shahid Esau. He subsequently compiled a detailed report based on what he was told and shown and has called for a “full forensic investigation”.
Esau called his findings “disheartening” in view of the fact that they have to do with the daily workings of a national monument which should be part and parcel of nation building.
His report to Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and secretary for defence, Dr Sam Gulube, deals with no less eight “over-arching irregularities”.
They are irregular procurement, maintenance concerns, event management concerns, policy concerns, information technology management irregularities, human resource concerns, heritage management concerns and allegations of verbal racism.
“All these are in need of urgent parliamentary oversight and further investigation where warranted,” Esau noted to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV).
One of his major concerns is the alleged theft of “priceless artefacts from the Chinese Government exhibition as well as equipment and confidential documents”.
Among other allegations Esau wants investigated are “R3 million worth of inexplicable expenditure on maintenance hard on the heels of a R100 million refurbishing” and procurement corruption including a R5 million contract to a service provider who did not meet the basic mandatory requirements.
He is also concerned about events management at the historic site and said “with the large number of events at the Castle over the last few years, how are we assured of the validity and credibility of numbers coming through the gates, especially with after hours events, when there are no Castle staff on the till or at the door?”
Esau maintains there should be a verifiable counting system in place or “do we only have the Castle’s word on how many feet come through the door and are charged?”
He was also informed “two senior managers both worked closely with the Castle chief executive at his previous place of employment” adding a recruitment company was apparently hired to oversee the hiring process as “a ruse”. Allegations of preferential treatment for housing and salary advances are also made in the Esau report to the Portfolio Committee.
Esau wants the PCDMV to initiate a full forensic investigation into the allegations made in his report because “we cannot sit idly by while our monuments descend into ruins”.