KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu. File picture: Facebook

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal’s public works department has hit back at media reports that R32 million has been “splurged” on premier Willies Mchunu’s official Parkside residence in Pietermaritzburg. 
“Contrary to the recent media reports of the so-called 'splurge of R32 million' at the premier’s Parkside official residence, thus far only R821 000 has been spent on the renovations,” public works spokesperson Kiru Naidoo said in a statement.
No other tenders had been advertised or awarded so far for the completion of the project, he said.
Following a reply to a question in the legislature on Wednesday, the Democratic Alliance’s Sizwe Mchunu said the renovations were unnecessary and the cost was “staggering”.

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Costs included renovating the swimming pool surrounding area, including the paving and braai area, to the value of R1 010 000; upgrading three bathrooms at a cost of R540 000, and repairs to electrical light fittings to the value of R180 000.
The 3.1832 hectare Parkside is 137-years-old and comprises a main house, two conference facilities, staff quarters, and office facilities. It is one of KwaZulu-Natal's numerous protected structures based on heritage value. Any alterations need to pass through the Amafa Heritage Council which administers alterations. 
This had had a “significant cost implication” on renovations, according to Naidu.
“The projected costs for the renovations of the Parkside residence are spread over a period of seven years and are in line with stipulations of Amafa Heritage Council regarding buildings that are over 60 years of age,” he said.
Parkside was intended for use as an official residence by the premier when necessary and for hosting guests and dignitaries, and as a conference facility for press conferences and official meetings. “The premier has his personal home in Durban where he resides,” said Naidu.  
“In all the projects undertaken so far in this facility, including the upgrade and refurbishment of the three bathrooms, a competitive bidding process was fully followed."
Parkside was a unique facility worth preserving for use and posterity. “As always, this is subject to affordability and prioritisation. It is precisely because we have many competing priorities that the programme is not final,” Naidu said.  
The R32 million master plan included upgrades of external water reticulation and groundworks; repairs, upgrade, and resurfacing the road network for about 1.8km within the complex; upgrades of two existing conference centres; replacement of the precast concrete boundary wall including security installations; alterations and additions to convert the existing outbuilding into protectors' accommodation to improve security measures.