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Taxpayers fund ‘atrocious’ R1bn for ministers, deputies’ state palaces

A police officer searches a car outside the parliamentary village of Acacia Park in Goodwood, where MPs live at the cost of taxpayers. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

A police officer searches a car outside the parliamentary village of Acacia Park in Goodwood, where MPs live at the cost of taxpayers. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 28, 2023


Cape Town - The government has spent nearly R1 billion on 97 houses for ministers and deputy ministers in Cape Town and Pretoria since 2019, according to figures contained in a parliamentary reply by Public Works and Infrastructure, Minister Patricia de Lille.

Some of the homes were replete with generators to protect politicians from the effects of load shedding, a separate parliamentary reply suggested.

De Lille responded to DA MP Dr Leon Schreiber, who inquired about the number of state-owned homes currently occupied by ministers and deputy ministers, their estimated value and the amount used on security upgrades and other features on the properties.

On the latter question, De Lille said there were no security upgrades.

De Lille’s figures show the government had spent R608165300 on 26 homes for ministers in the city, while R221 708 000 was spent on deputy ministers’ government-owned homes, also in the city.

In Pretoria, the government forked out R54 778 282 for 14 ministers’ homes, while it paid R82167424 for 25 state-owned properties used by deputy ministers.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet and executive have been widely criticised as bloated, and he recently added a further post for a minister of electricity.

Speaking to the Cape Argus, Schreiber said: “On average, each ministerial house is valued at nearly R10 million, which means that every ANC minister and deputy minister currently lives in two mansions (in Cape Town and Pretoria) valued at a collective R20 million for each minister – all courtesy of the taxpayers.”

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse CEO Wayne Duvenage called it an “atrocity”.

“At the rate of almost R1 billion spent on the residences applicable for these positions, the state has effectively spent around R16m per individual. That's a very big new house for each person. This is nothing short of abuse and waste of taxpayers money,” he said.

De Lille's spokesperson Zara Nicholson said since before 1994, due to Parliament located in Cape Town and the administration of government in Pretoria, ministers and their deputies are allocated two houses.

“This was a system we inherited,” she said, but stressed that ministers and deputy ministers are responsible for the repairs and maintenance of their private homes.

As load shedding Stages 4 and 6 frustrate people, De Lille revealed in a parliamentary response in December, that the government spent nearly R800 000 to burn diesel in generators to keep the lights on at ministers’ state-owned houses since July, 2022.

De Lille said in that reply that the government was also due to pay for up to three more generators to be procured and installed at official ministerial houses.

In that response, De Lille had been responding to DA MP Samantha Graham, who had asked for the number of generators purchased for the official ministerial homes, whether each house had a generator, whether there were any new generators that her department had bought, and the amount spent on diesel since July?

De Lille had previously said that the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure forked R1.3m on diesel and redundant generators before April, 2022 and another R680 000 from April, 2022 to June, 2022, the Cape Times reported.

De Lille had said that 13 generators were replaced at official ministerial residences due to redundancy.

“One generator was procured and installed on November 9, 2022 and three are still in the procurement stage. The total amount of diesel spent is R784 135,” she said in her December reply.

This comes a few months after Ramaphosa folded under pressure following outrage over the controversial 2022 Ministerial Handbook, which allowed high-earning Cabinet ministers to freeload on electricity, rent and water as millions of people in the country struggled to pay their utility bills.

Nicholson said it’s the responsibility of the state to maintain state-owned properties, just like it is provincial governments’ responsibility to repair and maintain properties belonging to them.

She said though De Lille didn’t handle maintenance and repairs of state-owned properties, it’s an administrative function where the procurement and tenders for repairs and maintenance are dealt with by her department.

She said Parliament approves the department’s budget, including that of the ministers’ homes, annually.

De Lille said she had not discussed the matter with the Cabinet as the administration is responsible for repairs and maintenance of the state’s properties.