The supposed renovations of the iconic Tshwane City Hall, with costs ballooning over R90 million, was a disguise for mass looting and theft by the previous administration led by former mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa, the Democratic Alliance said on Thursday.

Incumbent Mayor Solly Msimanga briefed journalists on an exclusive tour of the historic 1931-build structure, which went through extensive interior refurbishment over the past few years, including the installation of bullet proof windows all around the massive structure, that Ramokgopa and his staff were scheduled to occupy and use as their offices.

“Now we need to start by fixing the damage that was caused in a bid to restore the place to what it used to be. We have laid criminal charges and I have been told the case has now been escalated to the commercial crime unit. I have been getting regular updates and we’re hoping that people will be officially charged and prosecuted,” said Msimanga.

“We will be asking for the attachment of their properties so that we can recover some of the money.”

Msimanga said a forensic report on the supposed renovations was handed to Ramokgopa but no action was taken.

Tshwane’s senior strategic executive specialist Pieter de Necker who is now in charge of the project assisted Msimanga in pointing out the supposed renovations.

“The (musical) organ in this hall is the largest in the southern hemisphere. It has more than 6 000 organ pipes. In their process of painting this building, they dropped scaffolding against the organ pipes, causing damage beyond what we can even start to comprehend. All the organ’s pipes must now be removed and remoulded,” said De Necker at the visibly damaged organ.

“Of the 6 000 pipes of this organ, each has a specific tone. For us to fix the organ, it will cost us just under R18 million. It will have to be dismantled and shipped to Chicago [in the United States of America] and they can fix it there. The organ was made in Chicago. We don’t have the skills and workmanship in South Africa.”

De Necker said luckily the contractors had not yet reached for the massive main chandelier in the main hall but about 18 smaller chandeliers have gone missing from other rooms of the heritage site.

“It’s a heritage item. We don’t know the cost. You cannot replace them because it won’t be the same. Heritage guidelines also don’t allow you to duplicate them. So it is something that is lost forever,” said De Necker.

“On the windows and doors, about 60 percent of the brass handles are gone. These are not standard size handles. The contractor went on to over-claim on the work done. There isn’t one item where they actually gave us correct quantities. There was no quantity surveyor as part of the project, the contractors claimed for 50 doors but they actually fitted 20 doors. The previous project manager approved and they got paid.”

At different points, paint has peeled off the painted walls. During the painting process in one of the rooms, white paint mistakenly smeared parts of heritage portraits.

“Whether you agree with it or not, it’s still a heritage painting. The workers never bothered to cover the painting when they painted the ceiling so that caused some damage to the heritage paintings as well. We will have to get somebody who renovated paintings to come and assist us,” said De Necker.

Msimanga said several companies had wanted to use the hall for shooting films but quickly reneged due to the state of the building now.

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