The Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, on Tuesday announced that a forensic investigation into the Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP) had been launched.

During the announcement, the mayor promised that he would engage the residents of the city and listen to their concerns. This announcement comes amid a debate about the budget and plans of the city.

I have received confirmation from [Head of the City of Johannesburg’s forensic department] General Shadrack Sibiya this morning that he will be launching a full forensic investigation into the ARP,” said Mashaba.

“Information has been brought to the multi-party government’s attention that the ARP, which was launched in 2001, served as a slush fund for the ANC, the City of Johannesburg under previous governments and the provincial government.”

Residents have been protesting over poor service delivery since last week, prompting this latest move.

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Mashaba confirmed that there was massive looting of the R16 billion fund contributed by both the national and provincial governments towards the project. ANC members have allegedly been using the funds to enrich themselves.

According to Mashaba, ANC placed its members in the management of the funds, and these members were then instructed to work with ANC-affiliated companies. These companies, which were supposed to deliver on several housing projects, provided poor services as they had to set aside kickback money.

The mayor cited the corruption as the reason why ANC officials such as the president and Gauteng’s Premier, David Makhura, were “desperate” to direct the grievances of Alexandra’s residents to the administration of the City of Johannesburg.

“I place no stock in premier Makhura’s announcement of an investigation in the ARP. He has served as the premier of Gauteng since 2014, and has never once taken any interest in the matter until now,” Mashaba said.

“I have asked where the funding is to come from for the massive promises made in that document. At no time did the provincial government take any interest in these matters.

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Nonetheless, Mashaba is hopeful that the investigation will bear fruit. He says he is confident in the capabilities of the forensic department of the city, and the investigation will get to the bottom of the corruption that has over the years robbed the residents of Alexandra housing development.

The mayor expressed his agitation towards efforts by some parties to direct blame on the current multi-party administration of the city. He said these efforts were intended to divert people’s attention from the decades of massive looting and broken promises by the ruling party. This blame game would only result in the resident’s honest grievances not being addressed, he added.

It is not surprising that there has been no focus on accountability for the current situation in Alexandra,” said Mashaba.

“The politically driven efforts to lay the blame at the feet of a multi-party government are a smokescreen to cover decades of failed promises and rampant looting.”

Mashaba also announced that he would meet with councillors from all political parties on Friday. The purpose of the meeting will be to eliminate the influence of politics from the issue, and instead engage the residents as public servants.

The SAHRC (South African Human Rights Commission) confirmed it would attend the meeting for observation.

Unsurprisingly, ANC denied any responsibility in the project. “These are historical issues that are around the Alexandra Renewal Project, and I want to dismiss any notion that national government put billions of rands into the project. The Alexandra Renewal Project was funded by the City of Johannesburg and the provincial government,” said Makhura.

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