Agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has blamed officials in the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for providing incorrect information after parliament was told she’d spent roughly R1,6 million on luxury hotel stays over two years.
She also criticised the Department of Public Works (DPW) for not providing her with satisfactory official housing. A reply to a parliamentary question about Joemat-Pettersson’s hotel accommodation since her appointment in 2009 stated the money was spent on numerous long stays at hotels, bookings at five-star hotels and a high number of double-bookings, since April 2009, among other things.
The details given include a 36-day stay at the Vineyard Hotel and Spa in Cape Town in 2009, costing R135 000, a 36-day stay at the Peermont D’Oreal Grande Emperor’s Palace in Johannesburg in 2009, costing R290 000, and a 28-day stay at an establishment listed as “Pure Toys One CC” in 2010, costing R420 000.
But a statement by Joemat-Pettersson said she is “considering instituting disciplinary proceedings against senior officials in the DAFF for misleading her, parliament and the nation” with these claims.
She alleged that the entries they provided were incorrect and concerned “meetings that Joemat-Pettersson held in the hotels with stakeholders, where refreshments and food were served.” The minister’s response also stated that she “did not sleep in any of those hotels.”
Farmer’s Weekly contacted DAFF requesting the correct details of the minister’s hotel stays, but the minister was out of the country and couldn’t respond. Her spokesperson, Selby Bokaba, said DAFF is compiling the correct information so that it could respond to further parliamentary questions from the DA.
He couldn’t provide information about which entries were for “meetings” rather than hotel stays, but confirmed at least some of the entries pertaining to hotel stays were correct. He said some hotel stays by the minister’s personal assistant were misattributed to the minister.
In her statement, the minister also said that, after her appointment in 2009, she had to relocate from Kimberley “to hotels in Pretoria and Cape Town because the DPW, whose responsibility it is to provide accommodation to ministers, did not have houses for her”. However, she added she has been occupying the official residences in Cape Town and Pretoria since August 2010.
These explanations did not impress DA MP and party spokesperson for agriculture, Lourie Bosman, who said the DA will ask the Public Protector to investigate. “For the first 10 months of the minister’s tenure she stayed at four- and five-star hotels virtually every night,” he said. “She could have chosen to act in the public interest by renting houses.”
He also criticised the minister for signing off on a parliamentary reply which she now claims contained wrong information. “Either she is embarrassed about her reckless expenditure, or she did not care enough to read her parliamentary reply, which is released to the public as a statement of fact.”
At the time of going to print, Farmer’s Weekly was still awaiting a response from the DPW on why it took so long to find suitable housing for the minister. – Denene Erasmus