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Western Cape MEC Tertuis Simmers denies impropriety in house perk row

Western Cape MEC Tertuis Simmers denies impropriety in house perk row
DA Western Cape provincial leader Tertuis Simmers. (Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim)

Western Cape infrastructure MEC Tertuis Simmers has defended himself after it was revealed that he owns three properties yet lives in an estate where the state pays his rent.

Opposition parties have questioned the DA’s ethics following the revelation by DA insiders that the Western Cape MEC of infrastructure, Tertuis Simmers, lives in a state-rented estate while he owns two properties just kilometres from his workplace.

On Friday last week, Simmers released a statement saying his primary residence remains in the Garden Route, which is about 450km from his seat of office.

“My family remains at that residence whilst I fulfil my functions as a member of the executive council for the Western Cape,” the statement reads. 

He also confirmed that he had purchased two properties for investment purposes (rental flats) and that the purchase of these properties was public knowledge as he declared them to the provincial legislature and the provincial Cabinet, as per the Ministerial Handbook. 

Simmers lives in Century City where the government covers his rent. The properties that he lets are in Parklands, 11km from his state residence.

The Ministerial Handbook states that once a member of the executive council buys a house within a 50km radius of the Western Cape Legislature and has it registered in their name, it disqualifies them from a housing allowance benefit. However, this applies only to a primary residence, which is not the case with the MEC’s properties.

“The property I own within the 50km radius of the Western Cape Legislature is not my primary residence, and others I may invest in will similarly not be primary residences,” he told Daily Maverick. “I am eligible for the benefit, by the book. I comply. I am accountable. I am transparent.”

Simmers told the Sunday Times that he was not able to leave the Century City property because he was “obligated” to honour his rental agreement, though lease contracts generally allow for a vacation notice period. 

“I respect both oaths I took too much to jeopardise it by scoring a few rands from [the] government,” he said.

“All questions relating to the legal technicalities regulating the allowance should be addressed to the legal unit. Perhaps there’s a need for the Ministerial Handbook to be revised.”

The leaking of the information to the media comes two weeks before the DA holds its crucial provincial congress at which Simmers will contest for the provincial leader position against former leader Bonginkosi Madikizela. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Bonginkosi Madikizela resurfaces aiming to make the grade as Western Cape provincial leader

ANC provincial spokesperson Muhammad Khalid Sayed said: “If he is saying it’s not his ‘primary’ residence; therefore he still qualifies for a subsidy, this is not ethical conduct from the leader of a party that always lectures others about the abuse of taxpayers’ money, worse for an MEC responsible for providing housing to the public.”

An EFF statement said it was not surprised by the revelations because “The DA itself has neither ethical leadership nor moral compass to lead this province and they have become a liability to the residents of the Western Cape, instead.”

Carlos Mesquita, the spokesperson for the Good party’s MPL Peter de Villiers, said while Simmers’ situation may not be unlawful or disqualify him from housing privileges, it’s highly unethical.

“He, as a public representative, is happily collecting rent to enrich himself, while the government pays for his rent just down the road, on the backs of taxpayers. He is in this position to serve the people of the Western Cape, and not to use the perks to earn extra cash on an already fat paycheck.”

Premier Alan Winde’s spokesperson, Regan Thaw, said the premier had “nothing to add to Minister Simmers’ response”. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    If it complies, it complies. And the intelligent use of his funds shows the man has a brain, unlike the blatant stupidity of the criminal thieves in the ANC and the EFF.

    Give me compliant clever over illegal stupid any day.

    • Jan Stals says:

      Compliant and ethical are not the same thing. Never confuse the two. I would prefer ethical politicians to lead. Not that there are any of those left.

      • Ben Harper says:

        What is unethical about this case? He’s declared everything, noting is illegal or against the rules. Are you sour he has better financial foresight and planning than yourself?

        • Jan Stals says:

          Ethics is not determined by laws but my moral principles. Checking all the legal boxes does not mean your behaviour is ethical. One would hope that all laws are ethical, but that is not always the case. Case in point, the laws during apartheid. I would not have taxpayers pay for my residence when I own properties that I could use. This is especially relevant in a province with a housing crisis. As for my situation; I live comfortably in a house near to where I work, which I pay for myself.

      • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

        Your point is non-sensical. If you don’t like the law, you are free to work to change it. What you are doing is blaming someone for driving when the light is green.

        • Jan Stals says:

          So are you are that all laws are ethical? Ethics is not determined by laws but my moral principles. I would not have taxpayers pay for my residence when I own properties that I could use. This is especially relevant in a province with a housing crisis.

  • Graham Lawrence says:

    It’s still unethical. Despite not being your primary residence. Gaining a good salary and using taxpayer money means you benefitting at the expense of the state. Just how much rental does he receie from the government.

  • John Smythe says:

    The EFF and ANC talking about unethical behaviour and lack of moral compass makes me laugh. It’s the pot calling the kettle black.

  • Denise Smit says:

    The ANC/EFF do not buy properties near where they work so they cab live for free from the taxpayer including not paying for electricity or water or diesel for generators etc. Instead they buy watches, shoes and clothes worth a house price and showcase them with their red or green and black workers clothes on. Tertius Simmers is investing money so that he will not live off taxpayers in future. If one invest your money to grow and you pay taxes on the property you own and the income derived from it, you are not unethical. Denise Smit

  • Denise Smit says:

    It is election time and the ANC/EFF Good are grabbing at straws. Denise Smit

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