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MBABANE – It takes others months and some years after retirement as civil servants to move out of government houses.

With others, they even have to be forced out of these houses but there are those who resist vacating the structures such that they end up dying while still accommodated. However, with Percy Simelane, the now-retired long-serving government spokesperson, that is not the case.
Barely three weeks into his retirement, Simelane has already packed his belongings in readiness to vacate the four-bedroom house he has been occupying while serving as the country’s spin doctor.  

On Thursday, the Times SUNDAY found Simelane busy with the packing but the unfavourable weather had an effect on his preparations to move out of the residence, which is situated at Queensgate in Mbabane.

In his usual jolly self, Simelane said he was ready to move out that day but his son, Mfanasibili, who works for the Eswatini Water Services Corporation’s communications department, advised him that he would not be able to access his homestead because of the muddy and slippery road owing to the wet weather conditions.

As he prepares to move, Simelane will now be lost to the capital city as he will be moving to Mbelebeleni under Chief Prince Gcokoma, where he said he had built his homestead.

He was born at Ntshanini. “I don’t want to be classified among those who refuse to vacate government houses. Yes, there is a period that is specified for a person to vacate a government house and I am only three weeks into retirement but I’ve seen it proper to leave. I don’t want to wait for this period.

“But it also depends on how you have left office; whether you have been fired and they no longer want you in the house or you’ve been given another job it; the period could be more. I don’t want to be under either, which is why I was intending on leaving today. All my belongings have been packed and ready; only the bed is remaining because it crossed my mind that it might happen that I don’t eventually leave today,” Simelane said.

Government General Orders, clause A.743 states that: “in the case of an officer who is proceeding on leave pending retirement or on completion of service if employed on contract, resigns, or absconds from the service, shall be required to vacate his/her quarter not later than the last day of service”.
It shall be the responsibility of the parent ministry or department to ensure that government keys of the house of the outgoing officer are taken to the appropriate authority, who could be the controller of government stores, the regional secretaries or others.
“The outgoing officer shall be accompanied by an officer who has been delegated by the parent ministry/department,” further reads the clause.
‘I found pupils in house’

Simelane said when he moved into the house, he was shocked to find that it was occupied by pupils from one of the high schools situated just outside Mbabane. “When I told them that I needed to use the house, they gave no resistance but simply left, which means they knew they were living in it illegally. But this is the general problem with government houses; government does not know all of them and doesn’t follow up to see who lives in them,” he said.

The house has a servants quarters but it remained unoccupied throughout the years Simelane lived there. “This house has four bedrooms and its lounge is so big you can even ride a bicycle inside. The house is just too big; the garage also accommodates two cars. There is also a servant’s quarter which was not occupied because I chose not to rent it out like most civil servants do.

“I didn’t want the situation where I pay E150 rent but then rent out the servant’s quarters for E650 like what we see people doing. This just doesn’t make sense, which is why I decided to leave it unoccupied,” the former government press secretary said.

He said part of moving out of the house required him to clear any water and electricity issues, such as the metre number because the new occupant would have to use their own metre number.

Worried about vandals

Simelane said he might decide to, for now, leave the curtains because once people see that the house is vacant, they could vandalise it. For the first time, Simelane also briefly spoke of his exit from the position of government spokesperson yet, as reported by this publication, he had been offered a further three-year extension.

“When people ask me about the contract that was renewed I tell them that no person under the age of 700 years can be certain of not changing his mind. The person who had given me the contract extension changed his mind. If only it was a different person who had told me that I will not continue in the job then I would have had a problem with that. But because it was the person who had given me the contract extension who later changed their mind, then I’m fine with that,” he said

He stated that people asked him about this and if he was sure about it and he told them there was nothing wrong with being fixed. “You can even see for yourself that I’m fine; others even say it looks like I’ve gained weight,” he said.
He said to show that his former job was a stressful one, he found himself having to wake up at night thinking his phone was ringing, only to find that it was just his mind playing games with him. “When i realised this, I went back to sleep. It’s the pressure of the job I was in,” he said.

In July last year, the Times of Eswatini daily newspaper reported that the Ministry of Public Works and Transport had written to the office of the Attorney General seeking assistance with the eviction of about 60 individuals who were occupying government houses illegally.
The people who were wanted out were former civil servants who had retired, some were deceased while some were just occupying the houses illegally.

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