More bling hotel bills for our MPs

2014-06-01 17:56
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Johannesburg - Some of South Africa’s new parliamentarians are living in four-star hotels after the department of public works failed to get their state homes ready in time, City Press reports.

MPs begin training sessions this week and some arrived last week for party political work.

But because their houses aren't ready, some MPs, including Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, have had to stay in hotels like the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! and Southern Sun's The Cullinan hotel in the CBD – at the taxpayers' expense.

Rooms in these hotels are advertised at R1 745 per room per night at the Fire & Ice! and R2 113 per night at The Cullinan.

About 40% of the 400 MPs in the National Assembly are new. Many of them must get houses in three parliamentary villages: Laboria, Acacia Park and Pelican Park.

When City Press visited Acacia Park on Thursday, there were still people in the houses who had not won seats in the new National Assembly.

Cleaners, building contractors and painters were busy preparing the houses that were unoccupied. In some of the houses, the curtains were drawn and in others, people were peeping through the curtains.

Luzuko Jacobs, parliamentary spokesperson, said Parliament had handed the list of MPs over to the department of public works, and they were now in control of the process. According to departmental spokesperson Thami Mchunu, the allocation of houses to new MPs is under way.

"We can confirm that block reservations have been made in hotels for new MPs at the rates prescribed by the National Treasury."

Mchunu also said MPs have 30 days' grace after the election to vacate the houses.

ANC caucus spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said: "That's just how it goes."

"This is not an issue that can be sorted out overnight. It is not only houses, but offices, parking spaces and many other things that have to be allocated to nearly 500 MPs. Hopefully, everything will be ready when Parliament starts its first session," said Mothapo.

The New Age reported on Wednesday that Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi had said new ministers would not enjoy plush hotels "for long periods of time".

Nxesi told The New Age that his department had just three months to secure accommodation for 10 ministers. "We will have to see how we are going to get new property," Nxesi was quoted as saying. He said that, in the interim, ministers would be given temporary accommodation to avoid "big hotel bills".

James Selfe, a DA MP, said 18 of the 34 houses that the party needed had been given. "The others are still being prepared, or are occupied by former MPs."

John Gunda, one of the MPs who was not re-elected but is still in his house, said he would only move out on 11 June.

"The problem is that children are still at school and MPs are waiting for the school holidays. You can't disrupt the children in the middle of a school term. We asked public works for more time."

DA MPs like Elza van Lingen moved into her house while renovation work was still under way. "In the meantime, I am living out of packing cases."

Younus Vawda, an EFF MP, confirmed that some of the party's MPs were staying in the four-star Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! He was confident the housing problem would be resolved this week.

When the party's commissar, Floyd Shivambu, was approached for comment, he replied with an SMS: "We honestly don't discuss houses and issues that are non-core to what we are here for. We discuss politics and programme [sic] that brought us to Parliament. We are now in a political school and are busy preparing our MPs for tasks ahead, not houses."

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