Shell House rough around the edges

Johannesburg - The crown jewel in the ANC’s R67m property empire - and one of the icons of its transition to a governing party - is falling into ruin in downtown Johannesburg, City Press reports.

Shell House was the first asset acquired by the party’s property holding company, Dakawa Properties, in 1991.

It was the scene of the infamous massacre of 19 Inkatha Freedom Party supporters in 1994 and was the ANC’s headquarters throughout the negotiations that led up to the 1994 elections.

It moved to Luthuli House in 1997. At the moment, Shell House is the site of numerous low-cost shops and appears to be used by informal clothing traders to store their wares.

Contacted for comment this week, the ANC appeared unaware of what was going on in its erstwhile headquarters and told City Press the building was being rented out as office space.

In December, Shell House was one of several buildings in downtown Johannesburg raided as part of a Hawks operation focusing on counterfeit clothing.

In 2010, the party was forced to secure a R13.5m loan on Shell House’s 12 erven to buy a 13 hectare farm on the banks of the Vaal River.

City Press reported last week that the party was negotiating with a Chinese delegation for further funding to develop the farm because it couldn’t afford to do so on its own.

Holdings of R67.2m

Dakawa Properties was established less than a year after the ANC was unbanned in 1990 and has since been used for a number of property transactions, ostensibly on behalf of the party.

According to online company records, its current directors are former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, former ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa and party secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

- In June 1991, it bought Shell House from the Shell Pension Fund for R20m. The property is currently valued at just under R40m.

- In 1992, the company bought a house in Diepkloof for R160 000 and one in Isipingo for an undisclosed amount. The Diepkloof house is not on the valuation roll and the Isipingo property, which appears to have been used as a guesthouse at some stage, is now valued at R2.3m.

- In September 2001, Dakawa Properties bought Luthuli House in Sauer Street for R2m. The property is now valued at R17m.

- In February 2010, the company bought the farm Buffelskloof in the Tlokwe municipality for R13m. The property was registered in the company’s name within weeks after a R13.5m bond was registered against Shell House with Investec. Sources say the party had to scramble to secure funding to buy the farm. The Tlokwe municipality values the farm at R7.5m.

Building in bad shape

Property valuation roll records put Dakawa Properties’ total holdings at R67.2m.

When City Press visited Shell House this week, plain clothes security guards refused us access to the building and referred enquiries to Luthuli House.

The dark glass outside the building was cracked in many places and the cavernous reception area was empty, apart from a small glass cubicle housing the guards.

Plaster sheets were piled up on one side and rubble on the other. The floors were caked with grime and the lifts were deserted.

Outside the building, hawkers plied a lively trade in food, clothes and gadgets.

DA councillor Bongani Nkwanyana told City Press the building was raided in December in a counterfeit-goods sting and that numerous items of clothing – including Bafana Bafana soccer shirts – were loaded up and carted away.

He was not aware of any criminal prosecutions that followed. The Johannesburg Central police did not respond to requests for comment.

The ANC said it was not aware of the raid.

ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said that property management company Broll took care of the building on behalf of the party, renting it out as office space. Khoza could not say if Shell House brought in a profit for the party.

He said the ANC considered Shell House an important historical building and would talk to Broll to ensure it was well managed and did not contribute to crime in the area.

“The government is trying to improve buildings in the city and Shell House should also reflect [that],” Khoza said.