Current and former government ministers owe millions of rand in rent on homes that have been subsidised by taxpayers, according to a report by The Sunday Times.
Public works minister Patricia de Lille has sent letters to a number of high-profile politicians in an effort to recover more than R8 million in rental arrears.
Cabinet ministers are allowed two state houses – one in Pretoria and one in Cape Town. They are allowed to stay rent-free in one of these homes but must pay 1% of their salary to stay in the other.
According to the report, the list of debtors includes Nomvula Mokonyane, Fikile Mbalula, Bathabile Dlamini, Malusi Gigaba, and Buti Manamela.
A number of ministers settled their outstanding bills after being contacted by the Sunday Times, while others were surprised at the outstanding amounts and said they were unaware of the outstanding debt.
De Lille asked ministers and former ministers to settle their bills, adding that if they did not the outstanding amounts would be deducted from their pensions.
After sending letters to the ministers concerned, however, the Treasury informed her that this action would be prohibited by law.
SAPO rent crisis
Government ministers are not the only ones who have not paid rent – the South African Post Office (SAPO) has failed to pay rent on many of its offices for some time now.
The struggling state-owned enterprise is in a financial crisis and has been forced to start closing down branches due to continued nonpayment of rent.
Around 55 branches have been closed so far and in some cases, landlords have seized equipment and kicked out the Post Office from their malls for not paying rent.
Notices on the doors of many SA Post Office branches now state “Closed until further notice” without a clear indication of where people can now get services from.
The SA Post Office previously told MyBroadband it is in discussions with the landlords to resolve the disputes with the intention of re-opening the branches.
Over the last three months, the Post Office posted a net loss of R429 million, while its year-to-date net loss increased to R1.354 billion.
“The year-to-date revenue recovery remains sluggish and insufficient to meet all operating costs,” the SAPO said in a presentation to Parliament.
“The revenue shortfall contributes to cash deficits to pay suppliers and service providers, including employee benefit contributions.”
The South African Post Office’s creditors and accruals as of 30 September 2020 increased to R1.774 billion.