Zuma's R200-million renovation
At almost R200-million, renovating President Jacob Zumas house in Pretoria will cost almost twice the price of the most expensive house in South Africa.
According to the 2011 estimates of national expenditure released as part of the budget package, the refurbishment of Mahlamba Ndlopfu at the Bryntirion Estate will begin in April 2011 for a duration of 15 months and at a total cost of R191-million.
The project includes upgrading infrastructure at the residence, such as bulk water, services and roads. Aside from this, a hospital will be built on the estate, which will cost an additional R62-million.
An executive military health facility that will service the president, Cabinet and VIPs from outside countries is also being provided, says the document.
This refurbishment is the largest of any presidential residence, with previous renovations to the property totalling R50-million in the past five years.
Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu Nkabinde recently replied in response to a parliamentary question that R13,9-million had been spent on Genadendal in Cape Town in the past year, R1,9 million was splashed out on Kings House in Durban and R40-million has been spent on Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria since 2005.
With the cost of building an RDP house about R58 000, the amount spent on refurbishing Mahlamba Ndlopfu could pay for 3 293 homes for South Africas poorest.
Half the amount spent on the refurbishment could buy the countrys most expensive homes on the market, the penthouse suite at Cape Towns One and Only Hotel or a five-bedroom house in Clifton with a rim pool with views of the ocean.
The amount of R191-million is also a far cry from the R5-million that the budget has promised for spending on health technology, or the R60-million for the national HIV/Aids treatment programme.
Its ludicrous, says Riaan van Deventer, the head of real estate at Engel & Vlkers. People buy entire lodges for R40-million or R50-million. If you spend R20 000 per square metre on building from scratch with the top finishes and craftsmanship, at 1 000 square metres, thats R1-million. So its a heck of a lot of money.
Says Athol Trollip, parliamentary leader of the Democratic Alliance: We are extremely surprised at this estimate, especially after the response we received two weeks ago when we said that we found the R50-million already spent on the presidential houses excessive.
It really cuts across the grain of the Zuma administrations undertaking to cut wasteful expenditure and create jobs. It points to extreme personal indulgence. The president is ultimately responsible for the budget tabled by the finance minister.
The presidency referred inquiries to the national treasury, which said public works was the responsible ministry. It had not responded to questions by deadline time.