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Cape Town - Thirteen ex-MPs who overstayed their welcome in the parliamentary villages would be charged R30 000 in unpaid rent, including R12 000 that’s been due since earlier this year, public works announced on Thursday.
Those who did not return to Parliament after the May 7 elections had a month’s grace period to move out of the subsidised accommodation – rent is charged at around R250 a month – in the three parliamentary villages of Acacia Park, Laboria Park and Pelican Park.
Extensions were given to several former MPs, many with school-going children, until last Sunday, as long as they paid market-related rent. Public works confirmed that by Thursday all but four had moved out.
The only ex-parliamentarian with ministerial permission to stay on is Cecil Burgess, the former chairman of the joint standing committee on intelligence. Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi has granted him an “extension of stay” in a smaller residence for the next three months, the department said.
It remained unclear what, if any, steps would be taken against the other three former MPs to remove them from the villages.
However, the department is clear on recouping the unpaid rentals: if the debts were not settled by Monday, interest would also be charged.
“The department will use the normal route of recovering the monies should any of the parties fail to pay their outstanding rentals. But we hope that it will not come to that and the arrears will be settled soon,” it said.
Public Works is responsible for providing accommodation to parliamentarians, as well as ministers and deputy ministers, and the upkeep and renovation of these state-provided residences which are protected by police guards. It has been a poisoned chalice from the get-go: reports of appalling living conditions, thefts, and break-ins have repeatedly hit the headlines, as have exorbitant renovations costs.
While securing accommodation in the villages, MPs were settled in hotels. Thus some parliamentary newcomers found themselves staying in some of Cape Town’s top hotels waiting for government accommodation to become available.
Everyone has now settled in.
“As the department, we are pleased with the completion of the process. We are happy that we have finally fulfilled our constitutional mandate of finding accommodation for the new MPs of the fifth democratic Parliament,” Public Works said. “There were many challenges, but our team worked tirelessly over long spells and eventually we achieved our goals.”