Millionaire ministers take the people of South Africa for fools – Leon Schreiber

DA says only positive changes to handbook is that state will no longer pay for security upgrades at minsters’ private homes

Millionaire Ministers take the people of South Africa for fools

12 December 2019

After carefully studying the revised ministerial handbook, the Democratic Alliance (DA) is disgusted that the much-hyped new version of the handbook is nothing more than an effort to take the people of South Africa for fools. In fact, the only positive changes to the handbook that are even worth mentioning is that the state will no longer pay for security upgrades at minsters’ private homes, and the cap (although still too high) of R700 000 on vehicles for our millionaire ministers. The rest of the handbook is effectively a whitewash that tries to disguise the obscene benefits that the ANC is still showering on its cadres.

First, during the launch of the handbook last week, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu claimed that the total number of staff members serving each minister was reduced from 13 to 7. This is simply not true. Instead, Ramaphosa and Mchunu conspired to merely move 6 out of the original 13 staff members out of a minister’s “private office” to new offices called “administration services” and “cabinet and parliamentary services.” (See annexure A in the attached handbook). 

The end result is that there was absolutely no change, with taxpayers still forking out millions of Rands for each minister to be served by 13 staff members, each deputy minister by 9, each premier by 12, and each MEC by 12. This is exactly the same as it was in previous versions of the handbook. Taxpayers even still pay for each millionaire minister to be served by a “food aide,” which is presumably someone who saves these ANC fat cats from even having to chew their own food. 

Next, the Ramaphosa administration tried to hide the fact that millionaire minister will effectively continue to fly business class on all international trips. While Mchunu said that all international trips shorter than two hours would be on economy class, the reality is that ministerial jaunts to shopping meccas like Dubai, New York and London are all on flights longer than two hours. 

In effect, this means that all ministers will still be flying business class internationally at taxpayer expense. Once the fat cats arrive in Dubai or New York, the new ministerial handbook still allows them to “make use of hotels which suit the status of [ministers]…5 star graded hotel or equivalent of a South African 5 star graded hotel.” In short: the luxury 5-star lifestyles of the ANC’s rich and shameless will roll on at the expense of the South African people.

But the government’s most egregious attempt to deceive the people of this country relates to the fact that retired ministers continue to receive 48 business class flights per year for the rest of their lives, courtesy of your tax money. Deputy ministers likewise continue to receive 36 business class tickets per year, while the spouses of retired ministers get 24 luxury flights per year and the spouses of former deputy ministers get 18 per year. 

Once again, this is exactly the same as it was in previous versions of the handbook dating back to at least 2007. Instead of removing this vulgar waste of money, Ramaphosa and Mchunu simply deleted this section from the new handbook in an attempt to hide it from citizens. 

During a parliamentary committee meeting on 6 November 2019, Mchunu confirmed that former ministers and deputies will continue to receive a “nearly unlimited number of business class tickets to fly for life.” To escape responsibility for these lifetime luxury flights, Mchunu made the lame excuse that “it’s a handbook for ministers, not for former ministers.” He also argued that because parliament pays for this vulgar benefit, he is entitled to simply delete it from the handbook to hide the facts from South Africans. Of course, simply hiding this clause does not change the fact that taxpayers will continue paying hundreds of millions for former ministers and deputies to live the high life.

This is now the second time in less than a year that the Ramaphosa administration has tried to take South Africans for fools on this issue. On 8 June 2019, Ramaphosa’s government adopted a revised version of the handbook that contained almost no changes. Mchunu was later forced to concede that the July version was in fact an “old-new” handbook. Now, only six months later, this administration has adopted yet another new version of the handbook that simply tries to hide the truth from citizens. 

The DA is disgusted by this flagrant attempt to fool the people of this country. Instead of the government running away from the need to slash wasteful expenditure on millionaire ministers, both current and retired, we reiterate our call on the ANC to follow the example of the DA-led Western Cape. Where we govern, there are no business class flights, no lifetime of benefits, no 5-star hotels, and no bloated personal offices with staff to help ministers chew their taxpayer-funded food. We will not relent in this battle to save this country from financial ruin through the limitless greed of ANC cadres.

Issued by Leon Schreiber,DA Shadow Minister for Public Service and Administration, 12 December 2019