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Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

The department of trade, industry & competition led by minister Ebrahim Patel spent more than R6.2m on “residential accommodation” for the country’s foreign economic representatives over three years in Russia.   

The department also spent nearly R10m on “rental of space” during the annual WorldFood Moscow exhibition. 

This was revealed by Patel in a parliamentary response addressed to the DA’s Patricia Kopane. Among other queries, Kopane asked Patel if the department or any entity reporting to him had concluded any commercial contracts with Russia and if any entity was based in the Russian Federation since April 2017.

The department responded that, “through Dirco [department of international relations & co-operation], it concluded a tenancy agreement for the department’s foreign economic representative’s residential accommodation. The tenancy agreement came to an end on the 30th May 2020. The department advises that the value since April 1 2017 to May 30 2020 was R6.2m.”

The response also indicates that the department, through the export marketing and investment assistance (EMIA) scheme, entered into annual agreements for the rental of space during the annual WorldFood Moscow exhibition to showcase SA products for R9.6m between April 2017 and May 2020. 

Kopane said the department’s spending was a slap in the face for taxpayers and millions of unemployed people. 

“As a country, our economy is struggling, municipalities are collapsing, unemployment statistics are at an all-time high, yet we have people using so much money for their own interests. It is really uncalled for because as public representatives our priority is to cater to the needs of the people,” she said.   

The director of communications in the department, Bongani Lukhele, said there was nothing untoward about the bill as foreign economic representatives are provided with accommodation worldwide.

TimesLIVE reported on Wednesday that two ministers of communications and digital technologies and their deputies spent R5m on accommodation in just three years.

Kopane said the revelation should serve as a wake-up call for disgruntled citizens to remove the ANC-led government from power.  

“At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of South Africans to make sure that such people are voted out because it’s clear they do not have the interests of people at heart. There is only one way out of this mess, and it is for people to take a stand against the ANC.” 

The department did not respond to further queries. 

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