Storm over presidential guesthouse plans
Sarel van der Walt, Beeld
Pretoria - Wanted: 48 Persian rugs, 45 works of art, 300 sets of cutlery of "pure gold material", 15 decorations, silver teapots, cups and saucers, placemats and serviettes with the state coat of arms, linen for the bedrooms and 300 sets of eight kinds of glasses.
These items, amongst others, are what the public works department wants for a presidential guesthouse on the Bryntirion estate in Pretoria and for which it has invited suppliers to tender.
The DA has criticised the plans, describing the list as a waste of money, but a former veteran diplomat and expert on diplomatic protocol believes it is necessary that only the best is exhibited and used in a presidential guesthouse.
Connie Swart, a former ambassador to Finland and the Baltic Sea countries, said in a guesthouse like this, the president will host important people such as kings, presidents, prime ministers and ministers.
"It is important that you send the message that this is a civilised country and that you are maintaining a certain standard. This is about being civilised.
"Those sorts of people (the VIPs) are used to a certain lifestyle and you have to try and maintain it without compromising on your individuality," said Swart.
The new guesthouse, which is currently being built, is located next to the one which was built in 1905.
The DA's parliamentary leader Athol Trollip called on President Jacob Zuma to intervene and to stop the spending of state money, which is making his and his cabinet's "excessively lavish lifestyle" possible.
Trollip said it was also proof that a parliamentary portfolio committee was urgently needed for the presidency, as other state departments have.
In a country with great poverty and unemployment there was according to him, no room for the "shameless misuse of public money".