Work stops on president’s house

2011-03-23 00:00

PRETORIA — Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde announced yesterday that she has put a halt to the refurbishment of the president’s residence in Pretoria.

Speaking at a press conference in Pretoria, Mahlangu-Nkabinde said no refurbishment of presidential residence, Mahlamba Ndlopfu, is taking place.

“It is a residence that really needed to be worked on some years ago. We haven’t done that and we were in the process of doing it, but the cost is what has caused us to stop.

“We felt that with the R177 million that is earmarked we could do quite a lot of saving.

“There is no house that is built for R177 million.”

She said she was in the process of determining what Zuma requires, but that it would be a cost-effective price.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde said there is no multimillion-rand elite military hospital being built for cabinet members at the Bryntirion ministerial estate in Pretoria.

“We are not building a hospital at the Bryntirion Estate.”

She did say, however, that there is a need to accommodate the medical staff based at the estate, who she said are working out of caravans.

The department is considering housing medical staff in the unused Marula House on the estate.

“I know that there are figures flying all over the newspapers like R42 million, and R67 million, whatever … We are not going to be using any cent in that regard.”

Mahlangu-Nkabinde said the department will use its in-house expertise to refurbish Marula House should it be decided to accommodate medical staff there.

Referring to a R93 million house that has been built for a VIP residence and earmarked for South Africa’s deputy president, she said the project had been completed by the time she took office.

“I do understand there is an outcry of exorbitant figures and I also agree.”

She said there was an investigation under way to see “if we got our money’s worth”. — Sapa.

PRETORIA — Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde will comment within the next 30 days on the Public Protector’s report on the SA Police Force lease agreement for Pretoria’s Middestad Building.

Speaking at a press conference in Pretoria, Mahlangu-Nkabinde said she is still reading the report, released last month by Thuli Madonsela, and will comment once she had fully studied it.

She said she respects the Public Protector, and denied a media report that quoted her saying the report is “shallow and superficial”.

The Sunday Times reported last year that national Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele had signed a R500 million lease for the Pretoria building with property tycoon Roux Shabangu, allegedly without following tender procedures.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde said she had been in contact with Shabangu. “He took advantage of what all South Africans are doing when they think they have a problem. They would phone and say, ‘Minister, I would like to brief you about my side of the story’. So I met Mr Shabangu twice or three times. I did meet him.”

Madonsela found Cele was guilty of improper conduct and maladministration when the police entered into the lease.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde has been in possession of the public protector’s report for the past month.

Madonsela found the Public Works Department’s accounting officer was also guilty of improper conduct and maladministration. She said the lease was invalid.

The Public Works Department’s decision to continue with the deal, despite legal opinion advising against it, amounted to maladministration.

Madonsela recommended that cabinet, at its first meeting, demand an explanation from Mahlangu-Nkabinde on why she decided to continue with the lease, despite legal opinion to the contrary.

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