Old age home yet to open its doors, despite R27.5m lottery grant

January 11, 2023 0 By Cypher9ja

A lottery-funded old age home in the Free State is yet to open its doors, despite receiving over R27.5 million in grants over the past five years.

The Free State department of social development said it was not consulted beforehand about the plan to build the home by the Southern African Youth Movement, which received the funding, or the initial location of the home in Botshabelo, or when it was moved to Thaba Nchu after protests.

When the department “was eventually consulted” in 2022, it had “advised that the old age home be repurposed to a substance abuse halfway house”, according to Lindiwe Mnguni, the department’s acting head of communications.

“The department has an old age home in Botshabelo,” she said. “The department [also] has an old age home in Thaba Nchu.”

Funding for old age home recorded

The funding for the old age home was part of several grants totalling over R67.5 million doled out to Southern African Youth Movement-related entities by the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) since 2016. The grants are all recorded in NLC annual reports.

The Southern African Youth Movement also received almost R27 million from the NLC to build a drug rehabilitation centre in Mbombela in Mpumalanga, which is still not completed, and R15 million to produce and stage a drug awareness musical, which only ran for a handful of performances.

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Construction of the old age home initially began in Botshabelo, about 66km from Bloemfontein. But when angry community members vandalised the partially built home, it was relocated to Thaba Nchu.

Explaining the procedure that should have been followed, Mnguni said: “Like any other facility to be constructed, proper infrastructure procedures must be followed like land identification, zoning of the land, etc. The norms and standards guiding construction of the old age home must also be complied with.”

The NLC, in response to questions about Southern African Youth Movement’s various lottery-funded projects, said: “We confirm that the SA Youth Movement has received funding from the NLC.

“We are unfortunately unable to refer to any documentation or verify information regarding the inquiry as all proactive funding files have been seized by the Special Investigating Unit as part of their ongoing investigation.”

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Responding to questions from GroundUp, Southern African Youth Movement board chair Dr Lekgotla Mafisa claimed his organisation had “consulted broadly with various stakeholders, including the department, before the facility’s construction commenced”.

He did not mention to GroundUp that the department had advised the home be turned into a substance abuse halfway house.

Mnguni said the department was now working with the youth movement “regarding the repurposing of the old age home” and had issued a “conditional registration” for the halfway house, not the old age home the NLC had originally funded.

The youth movement received an initial grant of R20 million on 12 October, 2017 to build the old age home, with a further two grants of R3.6 million and R3.9 million on 21 May, 2019.

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In June 2021, a local Free State news website, which interviewed the youth movement’s executive director Alfred Sigudhla, reported that the facility was “90% complete.

A video interview with Sigudhla, published on the NLC’s YouTube channel in November 2020, shows that the old age home was still very much under construction.

This article was republished from GroundUp, read original story here