Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Uproar over Malema’s ‘R16m palace’

July 17 2011

The South African Revenue Service will be asked this week to perform a full forensic audit into the wealth of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema amid reports that the controversial politician is building a R16 million mansion in a plush Joburg suburb.

Malema’s modern house is being built on the site of the R3.6m house he bought in 2009 and is a stone’s throw from the “poor” Alexandra residents he previously warned would attack “rich” Sandown residents in his neighbourhood.

The politician, who portrays himself as a champion of the poor, has levelled the Sandown house and is building a multi-storey R16m mansion in its place.

“It will be modern, very modern,” an insider told Weekend Argus.

“It has a saferoom underground – in case he is attacked – garages underground, a ground floor and a first floor which can also be used as a viewing platform, a party deck. You will be able to look out over the swimming pool,” the insider said.

Malema and his spokesman Floyd Shivambu refused to comment on the house.

Shivambu said: “Go ahead and write what you want. We are not going to comment.”

The new building in Silvela Road, Sandown Estate, will have an area of about 917 square metres.

It is in a quiet, leafy area, surrounded by multi-storey homes hidden behind high walls topped with electric fencing.

The DA’s spokeswoman on Police, Diane Kohler Barnard said: “I can’t for the life of me understand how someone can build a R16m house on an income of about R25 000 a month, which possibly isn’t even enough to get him a home loan. So where is this money coming from? I will be asking for a full audit into his finances.”

Kohler Barnard said Sars should look into Malema. “It’s beyond curious how a person with no education and with a small job for a branch of a political organisation can afford to build a R16m home.

“The country has been talking about lifestyle audits, but this seems to be on the backburner. The ANC needs to resurrect their own idea and do lifestyle audits. Malema should be the first person they start on,” she said.

Kohler-Barnard also expressed concern that Malema’s house would have a safehouse.

“If it is true that he is building this underground bombshelter or safehouse, it makes me wonder what he knows about the future of this country that I don’t. It doesn’t show much confidence in a future in a South Africa that is peaceful, violence-free and safe,” she said.

DA caucus leader in Joburg, Musi Maimane, said Malema’s building of the house brought into question how much money he was making and its source.

“Julius Malema is an individual and, like any other individual, he can build whatever house he wants to. My problem is that Malema has continuously said that he lives off an ANC Youth League salary. If this is what a person earns in the Youth League, then perhaps I should apply for a job. It is unclear what his financial backing is. This is something for the taxman to look into,” he said.

On Malema’s site a large sign asks visitors to report to the site office and on Friday about 20 labourers were working.

The perimeter wall remains intact. Inside, several piles of sand were being transported away by trucks, aided by a man driving an earth lifter. The sand had come from a hole about two storeys deep, and in which the saferoom and garages would be built. The outer wall is expected to be about a foot thick. “The saferoom is going to be like a bunker. It is going to be so luxurious. If trouble comes he can run downstairs and hide there and no-one will be the wiser,” said the insider.

The site foreman politely refused to speak to Weekend Argus, stating that the architect and engineer had asked that no-one discuss the project.

“We were all told yesterday, reminded yesterday again, that we are not allowed to discuss Mr Malema’s house,” said a contractor.

A worker confirmed that the property belonged to Malema and mentioned in passing that a “Sold” sign had been erected outside the property for a few days earlier this year “to keep the media away”.

A property ownership inquiry showed that the 1 513m2 property was sold to Julius Sello Malema on August 1, 2009 at a cost of R3.6m.

The Deeds Office had earlier confirmed that this was one of two properties Malema owned. The other is a house he bought near Polokwane in 2007 for R1m in cash.

Malema had lived in the old Sandown Estates house for about two years, and had only had one “bad party”. It was Malema’s house-warming party in September 2009, when a police reservist had gone to investigate after neighbours complained about the noise and mess.

On Friday, residents said Malema was a “quiet neighbour”, with one adding “probably because he is never there”.

Last week a newspaper quoted an anonymous neighbour as saying they were “horrified” that Malema had demolished a perfectly beautiful house after big renovations.

An insider said Malema’s new house would cost R16m, but the price could increase to R20m.

It was the interior fitments – tiles, taps, brass fittings and other luxury items – that could add to the expense.

It remained unclear whether anyone other than those involved directly in the project, including Malema who was believed to have attended two or three project meetings, had seen the plans.

Only three or four people are believed to have access to the plans – the architect, the engineer and Kwadisa Construction staff. Another set of approved plans, which should be available for public scrutiny, is believed to be under lock and key at the Johannesburg planning division’s offices. A city council spokesman said the city planning division was investigating the matter.

“They are searching for the file to see what is going on,” said Nthatise Modingoane, City of Johannesburg spokesman.

It remained unclear who had approved the destruction of the old house as no-one would comment on the matter.

Malema, who had reportedly earned tens of millions of rands through tenders to companies he has shares in, was earlier cleared by the ANC of wrongdoing. In February 2010 the ANC said Malema had not breached any law or code of ethics by being involved in business.

This was in response to reports suggesting businesses linked to Malema had received government contracts in Limpopo of up to R140m.

Malema previously stated that he earns a R20 000-a-month salary from the ANCYL.

Last month Malema addressed a Youth Day rally where he warned that rich South Africans faced attack from the poor. And, addressing the South African Union of Jewish Students in Cape Town he said: “Those of you who are rich, you are the ones who must be scared of this poverty… We are telling you what is the reality, our people are going to rise against us.

“Those (of you) who are in Sandton, those who are in Alexandra are about to rise against you. And therefore you must be the ones who are in the forefront to liberate these people from poverty.”

An economist said yesterday a person applying for a bond of R16m would have to earn at least R500 000 a month toqualify for a loan without collateral. At the present prime interest rate of 10 percent, the monthly repayments on the loan over 20 years would be about R160 000 a month.

Said the insider: “He has definitely over-invested. He will never be able to re-sell this place.”

An alleged benefactor is controversial Polokwane businessman Mohammed Dada, owner of Dada’s World of Hardware. He accompanied Malema on his recent trip to Italy with other Malema allies. Malema is believed to have flown to the Durban July in Dada’s private plane.

The DA continues to wait for answers from the Limpopo government regarding the state-sponsored trip to Italy, led by Malema’s friend, premier Cassel Mathale. Malema went to Italy with the delegation.

“Reports that the recent trip to Italy has not yielded any concrete indication for investment other than a memorandum of understanding comes as no surprise,” said DA Limpopo leader Desiree van der Walt.

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