S.African ministers’ lavish home expenses raise eyebrows

The home expenses of South African ministers came under intense scrutiny Sunday after it was revealed that vast sums have been spent on curtains, kitchens and killing cockroaches.

The leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), said it was submitting a complaint to the  anti-graft watchdog about what appeared to be “brazen corruption and tender inflation” in the upkeep of ministerial mansions.

“Our country simply cannot afford to keep paying for the luxury lifestyles of Ministers who live like Rockstars, while load-shedding, unemployment and poverty are at crisis levels,” Leon Schreiber, DA shadow minister for public service, said, using a local term to describe power outages.

The move came after the government disclosed that between 2019 and 2022 it spent about 93 million rand ($4.8 million) to maintain 97 properties occupied by public representatives, including government ministers, in Cape Town and Pretoria.

The refurbishing of a Cape Town kitchen cost taxpayers 1.4 million rand, while replacing a curtain rail and getting rid of cockroaches at two separate Pretoria addresses were billed 54,000 and 240,000 rand respectively.

The revelations are likely to add to the woes of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was championed as a graft-busting saviour after the corruption-tainted tenure of predecessor Jacob Zuma — but has since been embroiled in scandals of his own.

A large chunk of the money was spent to install, repair or refill power generators that keep the lights on at ministers’ homes amid a worsening energy crisis that has most of the rest of the nation sit in the dark for up to 12 hours a day.

Swimming pool maintenance also featured prominently, with 388 invoices filed over the period taken into consideration in what the DA said was “the single most common maintenance expense”.

The disclosures, which came in response to a parliamentary question filed by the DA, prompted Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Sihle Zikalala to order an investigation, saying some costs were “not justifiable” and smacked of “mischief”.

Yet, the minister attempted to shield his cabinet colleagues from blame, with his office pointing the finger at “service providers” that, it said, seemed to be using the government as a “milking cow”.

“As government we are not prepared to defend the indefensible but we will exercise our strong oversight to clean up this area, which is unfairly discrediting public officials,” Zikalala said Saturday.

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