Montrose Mega City fallout: Contractor claims she can't pay workers because she's owed R5.7m

Businesswoman, Puleng Monyake.


17-05-2024
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News 24
Source

  • A businesswoman claims her life is at risk because she cannot pay her workers' salaries.
  • She employed the security guards at the Montrose Mega City project.
  • Puleng Monyake claims she is owed R5.7 million, which she will use to settle her debts.


Puleng Monyake, a security contractor who deployed her employees to the now-defunct Montrose Mega City project, says controversial businessman Sam Mhlaba, who also worked on the project, owes her more than R5 million.



The project was launched in 2017 by Deputy President Paul Mashatile, during the time that he was the Gauteng human settlements MEC.



Monyake, 49, opened up about her battle to find funds to pay 28 security guards she employed through her company, Madi Ke Ao Trading.



She claimed she was owed R5.7 million by the Mega Project developer, Mhlaba, and his company, SCM Properties and Development.



On Wednesday morning, security guards staged a sit-in at Monyake's home, demanding R2.5 million in salaries.



Monyake joined the project in 2020, with just two guards at the site. The number eventually grew to 28 security personnel.



"The number was increased after I complained that it was unsafe for two guards," Monyake said, adding that her guards continued working even after Mhlaba abandoned the project.



"Mhlaba knows that I provided services even after the project was abandoned. We were loyal to Mhlaba, who promised me that construction would continue.



"A business colleague came to my rescue and paid my guards a stipend of R3 000 per month. Currently, I owe my colleague over R1 million. I don't know how I will pay him ... he wants his money," said Monyake.



The project history



The R11 billion Montrose Mega City project was launched by Mashatile and then-premier David Makhura.



The first phase was supposed to build schools, clinics, churches, commercial developments, urban agriculture, as well as 1 608 RDP houses, 174 houses for military veterans, 1 225 bonded units, 1 915 social housing units, and 680 rental units.



The second phase was to include another two schools, an FET college, a private hospital and a regional hospital.



In an interview with SA Affordable Housing in 2019, Mhlaba claimed that construction of phase 1 would take four years.



However, the project was abandoned after claims that Mhlaba told contractors he had run out of funds because members of the "construction mafia" were demanding 30% of the stake.



Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi threatened to report Mhlaba to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to recoup the money he was paid.



Attempts to solicit comment from Mhlaba were unsuccessful.



He failed to respond to calls, texts or WhatsApp messages.



Kicked out



Monyake said she was taken aback in 2022 when she was told that another security company would take over the site.



Monyake added:



I was promised that the money owed to me would be fully paid before the new company took over. At the time, Mhlaba owed me over R1 million. He took me from pillar to post. He would refer me to people he claimed were his colleagues to pay me. Those people often told me that Mhlaba didn't have funds to pay me.



Monyake said that, on 7 February, she and other local SMMEs, who were also owed money by Mhlaba, were called to a meeting facilitated by the West Rand Municipality in Randfontein.



She said the meeting, meant to commence at 09:00, was delayed because they had to wait for Mhlaba.



"He arrived driving a BMW sedan. He committed himself to pay all his outstanding debts. He said he would pay us in batches and promised that we would all be paid within three days."



Not convinced, Monyake asked whether the money was secure in his account or whether he was waiting for funds.



"He replied that there was money in his bank account. I then asked if there were funds in his account and why he didn't process our payments immediately. He made excuses that his laptop was flat and needed to be charged. We charged his laptop. He later said he was only able to pay me R500 000."



After the laptop was fully charged, Mhlaba said he had to return to his office.



Outstanding debts



Monyake said she owed many people money because of the project's failure.



She added:



He used us to work for him for free. I owe many people, including my guards. I live in fear. People who are owed money are angry. They barge into my house, unannounced, demanding their money. They want their money. They are tired of my excuses.



She said she had become an "enemy of the community".



"They think I ate their money. Two months ago, some of my guards came and threatened to burn tyres in my yard... they demanded money. Mhlaba has messed up my life. All I want is to settle all my debts."



She claimed that, in addition to the security guards, she owed a business colleague more than R1.2 million, a loan shark R500 000, and her cousin R400 000. 

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