Gauteng social development department in ‘contempt’ of court

The Gauteng Social Development Department missed the December 20 deadline to pay the third tranche of the R11 million grant due to Kitso Lesedi Community Development, an NGO servicing homeless people in Tshwane.

The Pretoria High Court last month found that the department had “breached the service level agreement (SLA) contract” by failing to pay Kitso Lesedi Community Development the outstanding amount.

But the spokesperson for social development, Motsamai Motlhaolwa, denied that the department was in contempt, adding that the high court order was being appealed.

Last November, the department withdrew the allocated R11 million in funding, citing that Kitso Lesedi Community Development had failed to repair and service the public shelter at No. 2 Struben Street in Tshwane to be fit for human habitation.

But on December 20, acting judge Johanna Leso ordered the department to “honour the SLA on all outstanding contractual and statutory obligations” to Kitso Lesedi Community Development.

The court order specified that the payment must be made on the same day, December 20, not later than 6 pm. “The department is in contempt of the court order,” said Kitso Lesedi Community Development lawyer Latham Dixon.

Gauteng Social Development MEC Mbali Hlophe said she would await a brief from the department’s legal team.

The NGO was up in arms last November after the department withdrew its allocated R11 million in funding. Kitso Lesedi Community Development denied it had the responsibility to maintain the government-owned public building, situated at No.2 Struben Street.

The building belongs to the city of Tshwane, the NGO said then, adding that their involvement is limited to supplying the homeless residents of the shelter with daily basic services like food, clothing, and skills development programmes.

“The crux is that Kitso is not responsible for the maintenance of No. 2 Struben Street shelter. The unilateral termination of the service level agreement (SLA) is unlawful and unfounded,” Dixon said.

MEC not backing down

But Hlophe told Sunday World then that she was not backing down from the decision. “The facts are glaring: the building belongs to Tshwane, which, together with the NPO in question, had to secure the upkeep of the shelter and failed to do this.”

Hlophe said Kitso had been receiving R11 896 584.00 for the running of a homeless shelter in line with the signed SLA. “And part of the amount is also allocated towards the upkeep of the shelter, which has not been the case,” she added.

“The facts are glaring: the building belongs to Tshwane, which, together with the NPO in question, had to secure the upkeep of the shelter and failed to do this.”

She said the funding was not the only amount that Kitso received. “However, due to the investigation in place, the department cannot further unpack the matter.

“It is safe to say that the department is adamant that it will only support deserving and diligent NPOs and will not tolerate dishonest NPOs who try to profit off the plight of the poor,” said Hlophe.

Living conditions not conducive

On November 2, the NGO was served with a withdrawal of funding for rendering services at No. 2 Struben Street shelter because the living conditions of the residents were found not to be conducive to human habitation.

In the letter, Gauteng Social Development regional director Mpho Mokoena said that following her visit to the shelter on October 9, she found that the living conditions of the residents were not conducive to human habitation, and the building was dilapidated and in need of renovations.

“Among the residents, there are vulnerable groups of people, for example, older persons, persons living with disabilities, people on chronic medication, pregnant women, and women with children, whose safety and health are adversely affected by continuing to stay in an unhygienic environment,” Mokoena said.

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