Former presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj stayed for free at a luxury ministerial housing estate in Pretoria during his five years of service, the Sunday Times reported.

“He needed to be close to the president because of the nature of his work,” said Mzwandile Sazona, a national co-ordinator of the public works department’s prestige unit, that allocates presidential and ministerial houses.

According to the newspaper, the government housing at Bryntirion Estate is meant to be reserved for cabinet ministers and their deputies. However, Sazona said that Maharaj was not allocated a ministerial home.

“The department of public works gave Maharaj a state-owned house early in January 2010 after he was appointed as a special envoy to the president in 2009 and later as presidential spokesperson in 2011.”

According to the Sunday Times, he lived in the house until his retirement in April.

The presidency’s Bongani Majola told the newspaper that special envoys had “no special benefits”

He said presidential staff lived in their “own houses”.

Maharaj declined to comment to the newspaper, saying:  For all matters related to my employment go to the South African government”.

Sazona termed as a “guideline” the rules in the ministerial handbook, which stipulate only the president, his executive, premiers, MECs, executive mayors and the chief justice and his deputy were entitled to the state-owned, tax-funded housing.

In December last year, the City Press reported that Bryntirion Estate, along with the Cape Town Acadia Park parliamentary village, appeared to have been exempt from loadshedding at the time.

According to Rapport newspaper, “technical reasons” were cited, by the cities’ metro councils, as being behind the fact that the two areas could not be placed on power cut schedules.

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