After years of empty promises, government has moved to start processes to refurbish struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s Brandfort house in the Free State.

The erstwhile apartheid government banned the late struggle icon to the now dilapidated shell house in May 1977.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Wednesday introduced a new contractor working on the project, which would also help restore the clinic she ran by turning it into a multi-purpose centre with WiFi facilities.

“Visiting Mama Winnie’s House was also a reminder of this gallant fighter’s contribution to the freedom we have today,” Mthethwa said in a statement.

“The Winnie Mandela house represents the apartheid regime’s failed attempts to break her fighting spirit. Today we are here because she refused to give up,” Mthethwa continued.

WATCH: Inside Winnie’s dilapidated Brandfort home

Following Madikizela-Mandela’s death last year, the ANC in the Free State announced that the house was going to be renovated and turned into a museum by the end of 2019.

But this is not the first time work was said to be done on the national heritage site.

Millions of rands allocated for the project since 2005 remain unaccounted for, with court processes underway to find out where the funds have gone.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: This is where the money for the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Brandfort museum went

Last year, SABC reported that deputy Arts and Culture Minister, Maggie Sotyu said investigations were underway to find out what had happened to the allocated funds. 

We introduced the contractor working on the #WinnieMandelaHouse to the community to maintain accountability & transparency. He & a team from the community will also help restore Mama Winnie’s bombed clinic & construct a multi-purpose centre with Wi-Fi facilities & parking space. pic.twitter.com/eAgkPtkljv

— Min. Nathi Mthethwa (@NathiMthethwaSA) April 24, 2019

In July 2012, it was reported that the Free State government under then premier Ace Magashule, had set aside R3m for the project and a further R2.5m tender reportedly went out in early 2013.

But no construction has taken place. On the contrary, the house slowly turned into a vacant building where all kinds of social ills are taking place.

On Wednesday, the DA premier candidate in the Free State Patricia Kopane said Mthethwa’s promise to complete the refurbishment was “cheap politicking”, and that it was even more suspicious that Mthethwa’s announcement comes shortly before the May 8 general elections.

“It reeks of electioneering because the Minister is still not addressing questions around the initial fund allocation to this project,” she said.

“The failing ANC government simply has no plan in place to hold the previous contractors accountable or to ensure that there is a recovery plan…” Kopane added.

PICS: Condition of Winnie Madikizela Mandela’s house in Brandfort

The debate about the Brandfort home being declared a heritage site came back under the spotlight when Madikizela-Mandela died in 2018.

Beyond being fundamental pieces of architectural work, monuments also carry great symbolic significance. A year after the passing of uMama Winnie Mandela today we hand over the #WinnieMandelaHouse to the contractor who has been assigned to restore the house to its original form. pic.twitter.com/qZhAOkYJLS

— Min. Nathi Mthethwa (@NathiMthethwaSA) April 24, 2019

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