Diplomats must pay back R10m in lost rental deposits, says DA
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Cape Town - The DA wants diplomats to pay back about R10 million in deposits that were not returned due to damages caused to properties the Department of International Relations and Co-operation rented abroad.
This comes after International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor revealed deposits were not received for about 100 properties rented by the department where leases were not renewed over the past five years.
Pandor revealed this 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 deposits in the past five years.
He had also wanted to know the amount of the deposits and the reasons for not receiving the deposits back.
In her response, Pandor said the department has not received back deposits from 101 properties that have been rented abroad in the past five years. She also 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 missions outside the terms and conditions of the contract," Pandor said.
She did not name the culprits nor countries where the instances of the deposits were not received by her department.
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 also said his party could not help but wonder how many vaccines or how much PPE could have been bought or grants paid had the money not been “thrown in the water” 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.