DA's complaints about presidential residences groundless - DPW

Dept says R71,4m was simply spent to preserve the country's heritage

The Department of Public Works noted with dismay the deliberate but desperate attempt by the DA to manipulate the figures provided by the Department while responding to a parliamentary question.

In the statement released yesterday (Thursday, 10 February 2011) by the DA's Parliamentary leader, Mr. Atholl Trollip, the DA showed a serious lack of understanding of not only the mandate and the functions of the Department but also the DA's flagrant ignorance of the South African history and the country's heritage.

The national Department of Public Works has a distinct mandate (unlike any department's) to manage on behalf of government and the nation, the fixed assets of the state including all the residential places occupied and used among others by the Legislators, the Judiciary and the Executive while still in Office.

These will include the Parliamentary Villages housing the Members of Parliament belonging to all the political parties represented in Parliament, as well as the estates utilized by the Executive.Many of the Presidential Houses which DA incorrectly suggests are President Zuma's, were in fact State Houses which had become heritage structures having been built more than hundred years ago and had in their lifetime accommodated ALL South African Presidents including the architects of apartheid.

Throughout their lifecycle they were (and still are) being diligently maintained by the Department of Public Works, helping to preserve these edifices which had become intertwined in our common heritage. It was therefore malicious and irresponsible of the DA to imply that these were the personal homes of President Zuma. Mr. Zuma has only been in Office since 2009, far short of the time span contained in the DA statement.

Also it was entirely untrue that the President or the Presidency commissioned any work on these properties. As mentioned the ongoing conditional assessments and all subsequent maintenance, upgrades and /or renovations are entirely the responsibility of the Department of Public Works in its capacity as the custodian of the government immoveable assets - land and buildings.

Herein attached is the list of the properties in question and the indications of their ages:

  • Tuynhuys, Cape Town - built 1674
  • Genadendal, Cape Town - 1827
  • King's House, Durban - 1904
  • Presidential Guest House, Pretoria - 1905
  • Oliver Tambo House, Pretoria - 1937
  • Mahlamba Ndlopfu, Pretoria - 1940

However, it must be mentioned that the heritage status of the properties listed above and others similar to them comes at a cost as most of these structures have begun to succumb to the ravages of time, putting a strain on the successive maintenance budgets of the Department. Despite this, the Department has steadfastly resisted calls and expert advice to cut the costs by simply demolishing some of these buildings, preferring instead to keep them for posterity.

In the five year period (2005 /06 - 2010/11) mentioned by the DA, the Department of Public Works managed and implemented a spate of annual budgets totalling in excess of R30,236 Billion (thirty point two three six billion) of which only R71,439 Million (seventy one point four three nine million) has gone to the upkeep of the five Presidential Houses, constituting less than 0,236% of the budget; a negligible amount indeed for such prestigious assets. Every year Parliament interrogates and approves the Public Works budget, implying there was nothing untoward about the work the Department was undertaking.

To claim that the R71, 439 million could instead have gone to building houses, again indicts the DA for bigotry, for selectively choosing to remember the way the government was structured.Housing and Human Settlement functions fall under the mandate of another Department and this was the subject of a different budget allocation altogether.

Statement issued by Lucky Mochalibane, Department of Public Works, February 11 2011

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