CAPE TOWN– Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi says his department will use the State’s huge property portfolio for economic development.

Addressing the media here Tuesday, ahead of his Budget Vote presentation to Parliament, Nxesi said he would return to basics and use two pillars to bring change to his department.

The first pillar is to improve the department’s workings and and the second is its zero tolerance stance towards fraud and corruption.

At the core of improving the way we do business, the Public Works Department is ring-fencing and fully operationalizing the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE) to optimally manage the state’s massive property portfolio of over 93,000 buildings on some 29,000 land parcels under the custodianship of Public Works, said Nxesi.

He added that the department’s priorities are in line with the President’s commitment to drive new investment in the economy to promote growth and jobs.

We have identified unutilised properties with a deemed value of 7.4 billion Rand (about 588 million US dollars) for disposal or letting out. This list will be advertised on open tender culminating in a National Property Marketing and Investment Conference to be held within the next six months, he said.

In addition, he would revive a process of engagement with the private property and finance sectors to identify opportunities for investment in State property for mutual advantage.

The Small Harbours and Coastal Properties programme, which is part of Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy, has already attracted expressions of interest to the value of 6.3 billion Rand from the private sector and is generating 17 million Rand in leases and has the potential to contribute 6.0 billion Rand annually to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) and to create 12,000 jobs by 2030, said Nxesi.

According to the Minister, the department is beefing up its Joint Negotiating Team together with the National Treasury to review all leases and ensure that the government does not pay above market rates. At the same time, we are moving away from reliance on leasing-in to utilising state-owned properties, starting with the security cluster (of departments), said Nxesi.