Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) executive mayor Luleka Gubula recently announced that the local authority had donated 115 hectares of land to Walter Sisulu University (WSU) for a new building.
The announcement was made during a media briefing on resolutions taken in an ordinary council meeting on September 30. The piece of land between Komani Hospital and the Caltex Garage on the N6 towards East London is earmarked for the development of a Komani campus of WSU.
Gubula said the development was of interest to the local municipality and would benefit the province as a whole. “This item came to the council some time in December 2016, but it had gaps even though the council had accepted it. We requested our technical team to do some work so that we had concrete documentation before it was accepted. This was done, but it was delayed. We donated 115 hectares only for the building of the institution and residential area. Nothing else. In the discussion council had, we clearly said a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions ( EMLM and WSU) should include a revision clause. If WSU has not started building within five years the land will be taken back. We do not want to donate the land if it lies there for more than five years,” said Gubula
WSU local campus rector McGlory Speckman acknowledged receipt of the donation, adding that internal processes of informing relevant stakeholders of the university was underway and he would make a statement thereafter.
Opposition parties shared their sentiments on the matter and concerns were raised following this resolution.
DA councillor Lindy Haggard pointed out that during a council meeting held on August 31, council had resolved that the land could not be given to the institution. Among the reasons tabled were that
“No land to be sold/disposed of without a land audit. Municipal officials have withheld these after council has, on numerous occasions, requested them. Water, sewage and electrical infrastructure of Komani is already under severe pressure and will not cope with the additional need. A broke EMLM cannot afford to donate, they should rather seek revenue.”
She added that, according to rumours, the land had already been given to WSU by a previous mayor. “In the council meeting of September 30 the item came back and was steamrolled into action. All the councillors opposed to it in the previous meeting were silenced, except for the DA councillors who opposed the donation. While this municipality is run and controlled by thugs the community will continue to suffer. Had the municipality been in a financially stable position to render effective and efficient services, maintained and upgraded infrastructure, the DA would have supported an open opportunity bidding, which would have maximum benefit to Komani residents. Sadly, this is nothing more than a get-rich-quick for a few and nothing more,” said Haggard.
EFF councillor Luthando Amos said he hoped no corruption had been involved in the process. “We hope it is truly a donation because we do not know what happened in the background for this land not to be used as a source of revenue. We hope there is no corruption involved. We support development and we want to have that university in Komani because it will assist in job creation and there will be access to education. The issue of a donation without the municipality benefiting…I hope there was no skulduggery.”
United Front councillor Aaron Mhlontlo said he believed education was one of the country’s priorities. “WSU currently does not have a proper building with boarding facilities. The donation of that land which was unutilised for a number of years will contribute significantly to the economic growth of EMLM. The institution will operate like other universities. WSU has a responsibility to speedily develop infrastructure to benefit young people in the district and the province.” He said his only concern was in relation to the dilapidated infrastructure and electricity issues faced by the municipality, but indicated that it had been resolved that WSU would be responsible for most of the work.
Cope councillor Nomazotsho Kopolo supported the decision and highlighted the importance of education.