Buyer needed for secret service property

Johannesburg - While the National Intelligence Agency grapples over whether to accept a R7-million bid for its luxury spy house in Cape Town, the South African Secret Service has its own problem.

It has yet to find a buyer for its R30-million property at Hartbeespoort Dam.

This was confirmed on Tuesday by Intelligence Ministry spokesperson Lorna Daniels, who said the SASS house had been on the market since November.

Unlike the NIA, which, when it bought its property in 2002 for R6,45-million, decided to register it openly in the agency's name, the SASS bought its property through a front company for R11-million that same year.

The Mail & Guardian newspaper reported last year that the Hartbeespoort home was to be a tightly guarded secret.

However, residents from a nearby informal settlement threatened to move in and occupy it, believing that it was "Mbeki's farm".

Daniels said the SASS was not planning to auction the property, as the NIA had done with its guesthouse.

The NIA put its property on the market for R9,5-million and decided to go the auction route.

They believed that that way it would realise a better price after potential buyers had offered between R5,4-million and R8,5-million for the Sunset Beach house.

On Monday, Alberton businessman Neil Diamond, who is also an independent Ekurhuleni councillor, placed the winning R7-million bid for the home - including all its contents, valued at at least R2-million.

If the bid is accepted by the NIA, the South African taxpayer will be out of pocket by at least R1,5-million.

Daniels said: "We have 72 hours to ensure that the offer is in line with good governance and sound financial practice.

"The NIA will pay proper consideration and will not take a hasty decision."

The houses were bought under Intelligence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's tenure, but her successor, Ronnie Kasrils, wants to sell the properties and rather concentrate on the intelligence service's core capacities.

angelaq@incape.co.za

This article was originally published on page 6 of The Star on March 16, 2005

Article by : Angela Quintal