Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Fleurhof Opening

Yesterday MHA hosted the official opening of its newest project, Fleurhof House.

Tenants have been living in Fleurhof since April, but yesterday was the big unveiling of MHA’s plaque on the Fleurhof House sign.  Everyone at the office has been preparing for this event for months.  Even in normal circumstances it would be exciting: this is the first building MHA designed and constructed.  All its other projects were buildings inherited from the city. 

Yesterday, however, was an even bigger deal because ZA’s Minister of Human Settlements, Tokyo Sexwale, was the guest of honour.  On the one side, everyone was thrilled that he chose to attend an MHA event.  On the other hand, the presence of high government official makes a lot of extra work.

I did not deal with any of the government officials, but I heard stories from my colleagues.  Sexwale’s representatives would do things like call one day and say, “We need breakfast and lunch provided for all attendees.  You’ve invited all the Fleurhof tenants, right?  Make sure there’s enough for 1000 people.”

The other Canadian intern at MHA said they gave kept giving him arbitrary orders until he finally said, “I don’t work for you.”

When Sexwale finally arrived, though, everything went smoothly.  He was welcomed by MHA’s CEO, Renier.  He pulled the curtain to unveil MHA’s plaque.  He walked around the project and visited tenants in their rooms.  He gave away three RDP housing units in a lottery draw (more about RDP tomorrow).  He favoured us all with a long speech to celebrate Fleurhof in which he made it very clear that he represents the people, not the business elite (even though he owns a couple mines and is one of the richest men in ZA).

Tokyo unveiling the plaque

Fleurhof sign with MHA plaque

Two other government officials spoke.  One woman went on for a long time about the importance of recycling so that we all have clean air to breath.  Another woman thanked all the financiers who made the project possible.

Interestingly, however, no one from MHA spoke.  As one colleague said afterwards, “I was playing a drinking game with myself.  I had a shot every time someone said ‘Madulammoho.’  It was disappointing.”

There was not one mention of Madulammoho.

On a more positive note, Renier was allowed to sit on stage with Sexwale and his associates during the speeches.  Apparently that’s a big step forward!

Yep, he definitely represents “all those who worked hard to make this project possible.”

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