No cut­ting the fat as min­is­ter gets R700 000 braai


Tax­pay­ers have forked out al­most R700 000 to build a braai area for a cabi­net min­is­ter. It’s part of mul­ti­mil­lion-rand spend­ing spree to keep mem­bers of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s ex­ec­u­tive in the com­fort they have be­come ac­cus­tomed to.

None of the MPs, in­clud­ing those of the main op­po­si­tion par­ties, dis­ap­proved of the spend­ing when it was tabled in par­lia­ment, al­though the amounts were dis­cov­ered only later.

De­tails are in a Public Works Depart­ment re­port tabled in par­lia­ment this week. These re­veal that the gov­ern­ment will spend R48mil­lion on new houses for six min­is­ters, at R8-mil­lion a house, in Cape Town.

The re­port was “quickly” pre­sented to the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee this week and its con­tents were not dis­cussed by MPs.

No de­tails were avail­able on the braai area.

Bassie Kga­soane, the chief di­rec­tor of pres­tige prop­erty at public works, said his depart­ment spent R675 911 on the braai.

“Plans dif­fer from house to house but then you find . . . you want to stan­dard­ise fa­cil­i­ties like your swim­ming pools,” he said.

A for­mer public works em­ployee who pre­vi­ously dealt with houses for min­is­ters and of­fi­cials said min­is­ters tended to make out­ra­geous and costly re­quests.

“These guys are full of de­mands. We once had to hire space some­where be­cause one min­is­ter’s clothes could not fit into his wardrobe when he moved in,” said the official who asked not to be named.

Those in­volved in gov­ern­ment con­struc­tion said the spend­ing on the un­known min­is­ter’s braai was ex­or­bi­tant. They claimed that R675 911 was enough to build at least 11 two-bed­room RDP houses.

These rev­e­la­tions come as the public purse is shrink­ing amid a de­clin­ing econ­omy, with the gov­ern­ment scram­bling to find money to fund other pri­or­i­ties like the pro­posed pro­vi­sion of free ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion.

One of the houses to be pro­cured has been ear­marked for Deputy Min­is­ter of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Madala Ma­suku.

He has been liv­ing in a rented house in Cape Town since his ap­point­ment in 2014.

DA spokesman Malcolm Figg said he al­most fell off his chair when he saw the amount the depart­ment had spent on the braai.

“I nearly did a back­ward som­er­sault when I heard they’re spend­ing more than R600 000 for a braai fa­cil­ity,” said Figg.

“When the of­fi­cials tabled the re­port [in the com­mit­tee] they went through it so quickly, but luck­ily I can read. I will be ask­ing for more in­for­ma­tion.”

Figg said buy­ing six min­is­te­rial houses was un­ac­cept­able.

“It’s a to­tal waste of tax­pay­ers’ money and we are not go­ing to tol­er­ate it. It’s un­ac­cept­able. But for­tu­nately only one house has been bought,” said Figg.

Kga­soane said the pro­cure­ment of the six houses was nec­es­sary be­cause rent­ing was not a sus­tain­able op­tion, with trou­ble­some land­lords pre­sent­ing a risk.

“A risk is that own­ers can come back to­mor­row and say: ‘Hey chief, I want to go back into my house.’ ”

The doc­u­ments also showed that public works has forked out more than R109-mil­lion ren­o­vat­ing the Rygers­dal apart­ment com­plex in Ron­de­bosch in the south­ern sub­urbs of Cape Town where gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials live. The ren­o­va­tions in­cluded a new guard­house, re­place­ment of two lifts, a gen­er­a­tor and elec­tri­cal retic­u­la­tion.

Since the Zuma ad­min­is­tra­tion took over in 2009, at least 35 houses have been pro­cured be­tween July 2009 and early 2011 at a cost of around R193-mil­lion. This ex­cludes the cost of up­grades, fur­nish­ings and se­cu­rity.

The pres­tige pro­ject has long been con­tro­ver­sial. Three years ago the depart­ment and the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit in­ves­ti­gated how ren­o­va­tions to 11 min­is­te­rial homes at the time could have cost R100-mil­lion, about R9-mil­lion for each prop­erty.

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