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​2011-10-10: Subsidised NGO's refuse to vacate building as subsidy cycle ends

AFTER the Inner City Regeneration summit held in June 2007 amongst several commitments undertaken by the City was the provision of at least three buildings dedicated to providing office and work space to non-governmental organizations working within the City by March 2009.

This commitment was made in recognition of the challenges faced by non-governmental and public benefit organizations, which includes limited financial support, lack of capacity and skills, and inability to afford office space.

In 2009 two privately owned buildings, Nedbank Building at 145 Commissioner Street and Braamfischer Towers at 20 Albert Street were acquired for this NGO Village Project. These buildings were sub–let to NGOs through the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) and accordingly signed lease agreements with JPC.

The lease agreement between the City and Inspret (for Braamfischer Towers) ended on the 30th September 2011 and the lease agreement for Nedbank ends on the 30th October 2011. According to Mr Jak Koseff, director for Social Assistance for the City, "These NGO's are refusing to vacate the buildings as their subsidy cycle comes to an end".

These organizations have been beneficiaries of over R15 million in subsidies benefitting 64 organisations over the past three years. It is Joburg's position that not only this group of NGO's but all social  and welfare service NGO's operating in the inner city have to be given the opportunity to apply for subsidised office space.

Koseff says, "The NGO Village project was an unfunded mandate that had to be covered using NGO/CBO support funds and there was an expectation that the Department of Public Works would deliver on their commitment to transfer buildings for this purpose however this did not happen".

According to Koseff, 80% of the levied rental costs were subsidised by the City and organizations contributed twenty percent 20% to the total costs. The cost of rental payment for both buildings is R5.2million per annum and more than R328 000 is still owed in rent by these 64 groups regardless of the subsidy.

"The NGO support and capacitation programme will continue to facilitate opportunities for NGO office rental both in line with the inner city charter and increasingly on a city-wide basis but subsidy cannot be an open-ended arrangement" says member of the mayoral committee for Health and Human Development councilor Nonceba Molwele.

Clr Molwele further said that key officials from Social Assistance have been in discussion with representatives of the NGO's to "amicably resolve this matter but talks have broken down".

The City realises there are a lot of issues that need clearing between the NGO sector and all spheres of government. The NGO support team in Joburg has been holding a series of dialogues with NGO's citywide on how the city can have more effective relationships with NGO's to serve vulnerable citizens.

"We will be holding an apex session on this over the next fortnight, and we will ensure representatives from the group of NGO's planning to protest this Wednesday are part of that discussion", says Clr Molwele.

She stressed that as subsidy cycles and leases come to an end, new opportunities and support had to be created for all NGO's within a formally recognized process.

Issued on behalf of:
Councillor Nonceba Molwele
Member of the mayoral committee
Health and Human Development

Issued by: 
Virgil James
City of Johannesburg
082 467 9415