Goods are safer than MPLs

Celeste Barker, MPL

Shadow MEC for Health

Note: Below is a follow-up statement after media reports on Friday after Mrs. Barker discovered unauthorised persons occupying the house she had been allocated by the State.

Every MPL in a rented state house at Bhisho is in danger because locks and keys are not changed after each five-year appointment period. Given that South Africa has the highest rape statistics in the world female MPLs are exceptionally vulnerable.

I am a first term Democratic Alliance MPL from Port Elizabeth. My office is in Bhisho and I have been allocated a state house in King William’s Town.

This is well and good and I am grateful to the Department of Public Works and the Provincial Legislature.

Security guards have been appointed to protect the goods in the house so things are safe but I — and every other MPL in a state house — am not.

There are two sets of keys for my rented house.  I have only one set. This means I have no keys for patio doors, internal doors and some security doors. However security guards responsible for keeping an eye on goods in the house have both sets of keys. The guards can unlock the back door but I can’t.

By implication the guarded inanimate objects are more valuable than my life.

This is the fifth term of office in our country. It is therefore likely that the same set of keys has been duplicated and distributed five times to five different MPLs, five different security guards, five alarm companies and possibly retained by five different families who have copied keys for one or more family member.

The maths is staggering.  It means that when I occupy the house there are at least another 14 copies of every key on two bunches of keys circulating in Bhisho and King William’s Town. It also means that 14 unknown people can unlock any door to my house as and when they wish.

Crime and theft from state houses is high and could be reduced if the Department of Public Works changed locks every five years and after by-elections.

If the lives of MPLs are more valuable than goods, then the Department of Public Works should prioritise personal safety and protect MPLs by changing all the locks on state houses at the end of each five-year term of office.

I have written to the Speaker, Noxolo Kiviet and to Department of Public Works to prioritise MPL – especially female members’ — safety before the safety of goods and to change all locks in allocated houses every time a state house changes hands.

If this is not done the Department of Public Works is liable for all theft and harm caused by a seemingly dangerous and thoughtless practice.

Protect our lives before your goods.