"A misguided attempt to cover up the truth."
These were the words City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba used to describe comments that MEC Lebogang Maile made about the Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP).
"The MEC has bizarrely elected to make such a pronouncement whilst there are ongoing investigations which reveal a concerning evidence of corruption which undermined efforts to bring development to the residents of Alexandra. One can only see the MEC's comments as a misguided attempt to cover up the truth behind this corruption," Mashaba said in a statement on Monday.
Maile, who is the MEC for Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, made the comments at a media briefing on Sunday. He claimed that allegations that funds had been misused more than a decade ago in the ARP were made "without a shred of evidence".
The MEC also said no single person could be held accountable for the entire R1.3bn project, News24 earlier reported.
But the mayor was not impressed with the comments.
"The challenges faced by residents in Alexandra are substantial and the people of Alexandra deserve answers as to what became of the development which was promised by the ANC through the Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP)," he added.
Mashaba, who has since launched a probe into the 2001 project, alleges that the City's Group Forensic Investigation Services received information that the ARP served as a "slush fund for the ANC, the City of Johannesburg under previous governments and the provincial government".
"ANC members were employed to drive the ARP in Alexandra. From the information we have received, their task was to direct funding to ANC-aligned companies that under-delivered on housing and channelled money back to the ANC.
"There can be no question that the money set aside to bring development to Alexandra has been looted," he alleged.
The mayor assured Alexandra residents that the City would continue its probe into what he called "a crime against the residents of Alexandra".
"The time for accountability is now. The City of Johannesburg's Group Forensic Investigation will continue to investigate this matter for the benefit of our residents.
"What has allegedly occurred here is a crime against the residents of Alexandra and the state, it can only be addressed through a criminal investigation. The multi-party government will continue to work towards working with the residents of Alex to bring much-needed development to the community," he said.