South Africa’s army chief, General Lawrence Mbatha, was appointed to the role last April.
The job comes with some stunning perks, one of which is taking up residence in the posh Pretoria neighbourhood of Waterkloof.
Nothing wrong with that, and nobody is turning down a home in an area where properties sell for in excess of R10 million.
According to whistleblowers who handed documents and other evidence to The Sunday Times, Mbatha and his family weren’t happy with the residence, though.
Instead, the home underwent some pretty expensive renovations, some of which appears to be vastly overpriced.
Take for example the R15 000 spend approved last July to install a basketball and netball court:
The basketball equipment cost R6,899 and the ball R1,890. The netball hoop cost R2,250 and the ball R1,550.
The installation bill was R1,900. Online price comparisons show a wall-mounted basketball hoop can cost as little as R700 while an average NBA Spalding basketball can cost as little as R300. A netball can be bought for as little as R200.
That pales into insignificance next to the cost of new curtains, purchased by Mbatha’s wife while army officials were present, that cost the state a total of R181 000.
By state, we mean taxpayers – you and I:
Documents show that the state paid R7,000 for 9m of fabric for a “Spider-Man” bedroom’s curtains and lace… and R9,000 for a girls’ bedroom.
The most expensive curtains, however, were for the main bedroom and the dining room, which cost a combined R60,000. In other areas of the house, the state coughed up R82,000 more for curtains.
Over the past decade or so, the army’s state of disrepair has been widely covered. R15 billion was recently cut from the budget, and many of the tanks, planes, and other equipment is woefully out of date.
Meanwhile, back in Waterkloof, a senior army official said that there was no need to install new curtains, as those in the house were in “pristine” condition. A further R260 000 was spent installing new carpets, which were said to be needed urgently.
Again, senior army officials cry foul:
“A carpet installation at a price of R100,000 is rudely abnormal, being done only in the lounge. The state is surely being defrauded,” said another senior official.
“The [price] is questionable and utterly ludicrous given the space in the chief’s living room. To make matters worse, a second installation was done in the same area.”
One of the documents stated a camera had been installed at a cost of more than R80 000, but a senior official argues that it was merely repaired.
In total, the renovations and upgrades cost taxpayers around R1 million.
But remember, we don’t have money to vaccinate on weekends.
Mbatha has not responded to questions related to the expenditure, but the army did issue a vague statement saying “the VVIP [very very important person] official is not in any way or form involved in these [internal procurement and approval] processes and procedures.”
Brig-Gen Mafi Mgobhozi added that “should there be any suspicion or proof of alleged corruption [or] mismanagement of funds, a full-on investigation is launched.”
Don’t hold your breath.
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