Food for Africa at embassy functions

2012-07-28 19:10

Government departments spent R560m on food and entertainment over the past five years

Biltong, bobotie, boerewors and some Meerlust Rubicon to wash it all down.

That’s just a taste of how the department of international relations and cooperation splashed out R111 million on food since April 2007 – all in a bid to promote South Africa overseas.

In the past five years, half of South Africa’s national government departments have collectively forked out more than R560 million on food and entertainment, according to answers given to a DA parliamentary question.

No one is sure what the other half might have spent.

The DA asked all 34 ministers to spill the beans on their party spending, but only 17 responded.

The department of international relations is the biggest spender – it also used R106 million for entertainment over the past five years.

International relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela insisted that the money was spent effectively.

“South Africa has 126 embassies across the world and the money was spent for the country’s benefit,” Monyela said.

Staff at South African embassies across the world say the spending used to be far more extravagant.

“I remember just after 1994 those grotesque banquets we used to have. We would fly in chefs from Sun City and get lobsters from wherever to serve at these dos,” a former staffer at the high commission in London told City Press.

“Later we cut down on the lobster, but we still had huge events. Everyone would come because they knew there would be, quite literally, food for Africa,” she said.

A typical function at South Africa House on Trafalgar Square, where the high commission is based, would have a spread to write home about.

“I remember that as you would go in downstairs there’d be an L-shaped table and you’d have bobotie, boerewors, Malay fish curry and biltong.”

The official said the wine of choice at the more elaborate functions would be Meerlust Rubicon, which retails at R250 per bottle, while the more moderately priced Nederburg Riesling was served at the mass functions.

Another South African government official involved in the catering for these functions told City Press that selecting the menu items was never a simple matter either.

“We would always have huge debates about whether we should serve things like tripe, bunny chow and samp,” he said.

During the African Union summit in Addis Ababa in January, when South Africa was wooing African countries to vote for its candidate for the AU commission chairpersonship, it spared no expense when it came to parties.

At the capital’s premier five-star hotel, the Sheraton, events were held every night where snacks like peanut-sauced chicken kebabs and mini steak pies were served with top-notch South African sparkling wine.

During the summit Yvonne Chaka Chaka was flown into Addis Ababa to entertain heads of state at a gala dinner for 500 people. 

Top ten hard-partying government departments

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