DIRCO finally implements DA Policy on the sale of properties abroad

Issued by Mergan Chetty MP – DA Shadow Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation
08 Sep 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Mergan Chetty MP.

Despite years of fierce resistance to the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) repeated calls to sell properties abroad and save taxpayers money on maintenance costs, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) is finally taking steps to dispose some of its property portfolio.

The DA welcomes DIRCO’s policy shift and we strongly believe that there is still ample room for the Department to further streamline its property holdings to reduce its operational and maintenance costs, which have been constantly rising due to rand/dollar exchange rate volatility.

During a presentation before the Portfolio Committee on International Relations (the Portfolio Committee) officials from the Department conceded that 18 of its properties, which house diplomats across the world, will be sold for a cumulative R500 million.

While this is a move in the right direction, we strongly object to revelations that DIRCO still intends to spend R150 million to construct new facilities. This is highly irresponsible and Minister Naledi Pandor must put a stop to it immediately because it is akin to taking one step forward and three steps back.

Treasury recently issued a warning on the perilous state of public finances in South Africa and DIRCO’s planned new builds in foreign countries is definitely a luxury that the country cannot afford.

If anything, South Africa should be reducing – not increasing its footprint of embassies abroad to cut costs and save money. At the moment, the country is simply too overstretched on the number of embassies that we have abroad and this is always placing upward pressure on the Department’s budget as obligations at these embassies are settled in foreign currency.

Oversight visits by the Portfolio Committee to New York ( R118 million pilot project scandal), Europe and Namibia revealed that some of DIRCO’s properties have been left abandoned and had become havens for vagrants who were busy vandalizing the structures due to neglect.

It is vital that DIRCO pursues a transparent and clear process on the 18 properties put up for sale in order ensure that South Africa derives as much benefit as possible from the sale of these properties. The country can ill-afford to have another scandal on its hands so soon after the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling on the New York land deal and the money is yet to be recovered.

Whilst welcoming the Minister finally seeing the DA’s point, we will be exercising our oversight that officials will not be beneficiaries of these transactions, as was the case with New York.