King’s unused R2,5 mln house

2008-03-13 00:00

An opulent Hillcrest guesthouse purchased by the provincial government about two years ago remains unused while it continues to siphon taxpayers’ money.

The house, bought for about R2,5 million, was to be used as accommodation for the Zulu king and his guests when he is in Durban.

This would have minimised the high hotel costs that the Royal Household Department incurs through the king’s travels.

But King Goodwill Zwelithini has refused to use the house, saying that it is a security risk.

These details emerged at the provincial legislature yesterday during hearings into the budget of the premier’s office for 2008/2009.

Sipho Mbatha of the Inkatha Freedom Party asked why the house was purchased, if the king had objected to it.

KZN director-general Kwazi Mbanjwa said that according to his understanding, the king originally agreed to the purchase of the house, but later raised security concerns.

"We have requested security agents to provide us with a security report. So far we have not received any written report apart from a verbal report from the king’s VIP Protection Unit," Mbanjwa said.

He added that the provincial government decided to stop all the refurbishments to the house due to high costs.

In the 2007/2008 financial year budget, about R3,4 million was set aside for refurbishments to the house.

Democratic Alliance caucus leader Roger Burrows said his party was concerned that even if the government were to sell the house it would do so at a loss, rendering the move a fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

ANC MPL Mike Tarr proposed that the house be sold. "Let us walk away from it," he said.

Belinda Scott, the chair of the finance portfolio committee, said the idea of the guesthouse makes good financial sense.

"Is the king the problem here? I think we need to be honest about why we are not having the guesthouse. What is the real issue here? I do not buy the security issue," she said.

The guesthouse was also to be used as to house VIP guests of the provincial government from outside the province.

The provincial government is responsible for the upkeep of the house.

The finance committee will await a full report from the Premier’s Office and the Royal Household department.

bmbanjwa@witness.co.za

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