The fat of the land
31 Jul 2009 08:19 | Mandy Rossouw
While pay demands and service delivery protests cripple South Africa, government leaders are still receiving luxurious perks.
In addition to salaries ranging from R2,04-million for the president to R692 ?085 for an MP, political office-bearers receive a range of benefits such as medical aid, housing, luxury travel and fancy cars.
Last week the Democratic Alliance wrote to Vusi Mavimbela, the director general of the presidency, to request that some of these privileges be curtailed, especially the allocation for official vehicles, which the party wants reduced from R929 000 to R663 780 a vehicle.
Cabinet members and deputy ministers are entitled to two vehicles.
The DA also wants to revoke privileges such as free use of the Blue Train and VIP lounges at airports, as well as corporate credit cards for ministers' expenses on official trips.
'We hope that the government will take these proposals seriously and will take the steps that are necessary to show that they, too, recognise the harsh economic realities that South Africa is confronting,” DA leader Helen Zille said in a statement.
Even former ministers and deputy ministers still enjoy up to 40 complimentary business-class domestic air tickets a year.
Newly appointed officials such as Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda have been criticised for buying top-of-the-range vehicles.
Others, such as Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, have opted for more modest vehicles, while Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane still drives the Mercedes 4X4 that his predecessor left behind, and opted to get a Volkswagen for his Cape Town office. Cape Town mayor Dan Plato is still driving his Volkswagen Chico.
On Thursday, Chabane announced that ministers' car allowances will be reconsidered as part of a review of government spending.
'Political office bearers have not broken any rules,” he said in connection with the ministerial purchases. But 'recognising the sensitivity of the matter, Cabinet has established a ministerial task team to look at government spending in the context of the economic meltdown”.
The team will be made up of Chabane, Gordhan and Richard Baloyi, minister of public service and administration, and will 'advise Cabinet on how matters of this nature can be handled”.
Benefits of high-profile service
Here are some of perks that parliamentarians enjoy:
Members of Parliament
Mercs 'a steal at reduced prices'
Free State Premier Ace Magashule and his ministers have become the latest members of government's WaBenzi club after R11-million was splurged on new Mercedes-Benzes for the entire provincial cabinet, write Mandy Rossouw and Adriaan Basson.
The revelation comes after a number of national ministers have had to explain their weakness for luxury vehicles in recent weeks.
Topping the list was Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda, whose department spent R2,4-million on two top-of-the-range BMWs for his Cape Town and Pretoria offices.
But Magashule has overtaken Nyanda as driver of the most expensive German sedan used by a South African politician. At a 'discounted price” of R1,3-million, his Mercedes-Benz S600 eclipses Nyanda's BMW 750i. Nyanda's BM, which boasts extras such as body-roll stabilisation, electric sun blinds and high-gloss satin chrome, was a steal at R1,27-million.
Magashule's car makes Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's official vehicles -- an Audi A6 and Lexus GS300 at less than R600?000 each -- look frugal.
The Merc S600 is the manufacturer's flagship model and is designed to create 'maximum comfort and safety” for both driver and passengers.
The fully imported vehicle includes radar sensors that read road conditions, driving style and vehicle load. Passengers enjoy a gentle back massage that stimulates the back muscles, assists blood circulation and helps to prevent fatigue after a hard
The premier's driver need not take his eyes off the road when he wants to change the radio station, CD or DVD that is fitted for passengers in the back seat, as these can all be operated from the steering wheel. The car is also fitted with its own telephone.
In response to the Mail & Guardian's questions, Teboho Sikisi, Magashule's spokesperson, said the Free State government garage had bought the vehicles after an analysis of the most cost-effective way to transport MECs [provincial ministers].
According to him, ministers in former premier Beatrice Marshoff's cabinet either drove their own cars and claimed exorbitant amounts for mileage each month, or their official vehicles exceeded the limit of 120?000km for public office-bearers.
'Our analysis indicated that in the event that MECs used their own vehicles for official duties, their respective departments were paying between R30 000 and R45 000 a month on kilometres claimed, or between R3-million and R4-million per annum. This was very costly and unsustainable,” Sikisi said.
The 11 Mercedes-Benzes were purchased as part of the Free State's 'asset base” and not for individual MECs. 'The market value of each S500 is R1,3-million, but we got each for R970?000, representing a 40% discount. The market value of the S600 is R1,7-million and we got it at a discounted price of R1,3-million,” Sikisi said. 'This, by any standard, is a good investment, since these vehicles constitute an asset base for the provincial government.”
According to Sikisi the same arrangement is made for judges 'and other VIPs” who are 'clients” of the provincial government garage fleet.
Through Sikisi, Magashule also defended spending R7-million on a function to mark the opening of the Free State legislature in June. 'Given the nature of the event, the costs are justifiable and are normal compared with events of this nature and magnitude,” he said.
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