IN A reply to a DA parliamentary question received yesterday, Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu Nkabinde revealed that more than R70-million has been spent on renovating the five presidential residences over the last five years, with almost R40-million being spent on President Jacob Zuma’s Pretoria residence, Mahlambandlopfu, alone.
These figures are astonishing and constitute indulgent and wasteful expenditure of the highest order. It is deeply ironic that, on a day when President Jacob Zuma is due to offer another list of sweeping promises to South Africans, he has yet again been exposed as a leader who, in the face of chronic unemployment and poor delivery, has continued to place his taste for the finer things in life over the needs of the people he was elected to serve.
President Zuma has repeatedly stated his commitment to addressing public concerns that the ANC government is “living large.” Indeed, he has expressed his intention to foster a “culture of greater prudence and less extravagance; achieving greater value for money and delivering more and better services with less resources.”
The figures contained in this parliamentary reply tell a very different story.
That President Zuma has sanctioned the spending of tens of millions of rands of public funds on maintaining a lifestyle of excess and luxury is a powerful illustration of the President’s insincerity when making commitments to changing the ANC government’s culture of wasteful spending.
It also reveals a disturbing disconnection from the pressing needs of millions of South Africans. The sum spent on the refurbishment of the five presidential residences over the past five years could have built over 1200 RDP homes.
It is worth noting that the figures contained in this reply cover only the structural and maintenance costs of the President’s five residences.
Furthermore, this is not an exhaustive list of these costs as the Presidency failed to provide some of the figures on the grounds that they were “not readily available”, which raises concerns about the diligence of the Presidency in keeping accurate records of its expenditure, and the department’s approach to accountability.
In a response to a parliamentary question in November last year, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane revealed that the running costs of the five presidential homes were in excess of R5 300 000 for 2009/10, excluding the salaries of the 113 staff employed to service them.
The total cost of the running and maintenance of the President’s five official homes is therefore significantly in excess of those figures provided in the most recent parliamentary reply.
The DA has submitted further questions to the Presidency to ascertain the cost of maintaining the staff complements of the various households, to enquire about anomalies in the figures contained in yesterday’s reply, and to determine exactly how often the President and Deputy President have used the five official residences since they assumed office.
Such unnecessary extravagance has little place in a country’s where the alleviation of poverty and the provision of reliable services are its most pressing needs. – Sapa