Social Development minister’s expensive hotel stays

2012-12-10 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has spent 166 nights in luxury hotels in two years at a cost of more than R750 000.

The minister, who is from Pietermaritzburg, said there was nothing untoward in these stays.

The information on her spending on hotels between June 2009 and August 2011 was made available to DA MP Mike Waters under the Protection of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

The government normally refuses to release information on ministerial hotel accommodation for security reasons.

One of the determinations in the Protection of State Information bill (the so-called secrecy bill) is that it will take precedence over PAIA to prevent making public any information that could impair state security.

In Dlamini’s case, the information disclosed as part of the PAIA request included that she spent:

• four nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront in Cape Town at a cost of R23 346;

• A further 10 nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront at a cost of R62 406;

•28 nights at the Cricklewood Manor in Pretoria at a cost of R139 494;

• Another 11 nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront at a cost of R50 816;

• five nights at the Hilton Durban at a cost of R20 053; and

• another three nights at the Hilton Durban at a cost of R24 624.

The DA said such extravagance showed insensitivity towards the 15 million poorest South Africans who live from hand to mouth, but Dlamini’s spokesperson, Lumka Oliphant, said everything had to be seen in context.

She said the minister was known for the fact that she and her staff “spend lots of time with the poor and did not sit in office all day”.

Oliphant added the minister was entitled to hotel accommodation as some mornings she had to be in Worcester at nine in the morning and to be on time she “had to get up at six”.

When it was pointed out to her that none of the official ministerial residences was geographically any further from Worcester than the Waterfront, Oliphant said it was only a theoretical example.

She undertook to check today on which official duties Dlamini was fulfilling on each of the 166 days that she stayed in luxury hotels, and why hotel accommodation was required.

Waters said his party would next check where Dlamini’s official residence was and whether the taxpayer’s money and the department’s budget were being spent correctly.

Contacted later, Dlamini herself said the DA was being mischievous.

She said during the period in question, she had no official residence in Cape Town, and that the places she stayed in included guest houses, not expensive hotels as suggested by the DA.

Dlamini said the DA was bitter because the government has been able to work with the people in the Western Cape despite the DA leaving the majority of the poor out of the system.

“I must make it clear that it is our duty as (the) Social Development (department) to improve our people’s standard of living. Whenever we invite the DA to department programmes, they make sure that they don’t come, arguing that the programmes are just an agenda of the ANC to canvass,” she said.

“The statement they issued doesn’t help people understand their complaint because they list 61 days stayed in hotels, yet again they claim that I’ve spent 145 nights in luxury hotels. Some of the listed establishments are guesthouses. The focus should be to better the lives of the poor, not mudslinging.”

Although there was no detailed information on the programmes she attended during the period in question, Dlamini said they included an early childhood development conference in the Eastern Cape, the Golden Games for the Elderly in North West and a youth camp in Bloemfontein.

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