DA wants diplomats to pay back R10m in unreturned rental deposits
Cape Town - If the official opposition has its way, diplomats should pay back about R10 million in deposits that were not returned to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) due to damages to properties it rented abroad.
The party made the call after receiving a reply from International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor when she was responding to parliamentary questions from DA MP Darren Bergman.
Bergman had enquired about the total number of properties for which the department has not received back a deposit in the past five years.
He had also wanted to know the amount of the deposits and the reasons for not receiving back the deposits.
In her response, Pandor said the department has not received back deposits from 101 properties that have been rented abroad.
She said the total amount of the deposits was R9 393 429.
"Reasons for not receiving back the deposits are damages to properties, deposit used by the landlord for the maintenance work and repairs of damages, and lease terminated by mission outside the terms and conditions of the contract," Pandor said.
She did not name the culprits nor countries where the instances of the deposits not received by her department occurred.
Bergman said the department should immediately sign indemnity agreements with all diplomats in South Africa’s service.
"Should such agreements already be in place, questions around their enforcement should be raised," he said.
Bergman said his party could not help but wonder how many vaccines or PPE could have been bought or grants been paid, had the money not been thrown away by negligent and reckless diplomats.
"We are therefore of the view that diplomats should be held directly responsible for damages they cause."
He charged that the embarrassing issue was clearly illustrated in the ongoing Los Angeles saga, where the consul-general Thandile Sunduza has yet to find a suitable property to call home.
"With South African diplomats clearly showing a history of being terrible tenants, is it any wonder we’re having trouble renting a home for Sunduza?
"Diplomats should be held to the age-old standard, ’You break it, you buy it’, or at least pay for the damages incurred," Bergman said.