State splurges while citizens face recession, inflation and job losses

2009-12-13 12:07

CHRISTMAS came early for ­President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet, which has

splurged nearly R1?billion on luxury items and on added ministries since he took

office.

This surfaced amid rising concerns about extravagant spending in

­almost all departments, with about R48?million spent on flashy cars while the

rest of the country battles recession, biting inflation and soaring job

losses.

This week it was revealed that Correctional Services Minister

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula joined the costly cars brigade when she splashed out

R960?000 on a Lexus LS460 while her deputy, Hlengiwe Mkhize, went for a R750?000

Porsche Cayenne.

They joined colleagues Blade Nzimande, Trevor Manuel, Siphiwe

Nyanda, Angie Motshekga, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Naledi Pandor, Nathi Mthethwa,

Sicelo Shiceka, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, Aaron Motsoaledi and Edna Molewa, who

all drive Mercedes Benzes and top-of-the-range BMWs costing between R600 000 and

R1 million each.

The government defended the ministers’ expensive tastes, saying

they needed decent, reliable wheels to do their work and that they had all spent

within the requirements of the ministerial handbook.

But questions have been raised by the opposition, media and

analysts on how Zuma, who sold himself to the electorate as a caring man of the

people, could allow his government to spend millions on luxury items while the

poor suffer poverty and the country battles major job losses.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said the government had spent

R601?million on unnecessary items and cars while cheaper, ­affordable and

equally reliable vehicles were available. It said the figure was compiled from a

list of answers provided by government departments to parliamentary

questions.

DA spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko said the Zuma government put the

needs of the ANC elite ahead of those of ordinary South Africans.

“Ministerial parties, cars and houses – very few of which are

necessary or prudent – have come to ­define the life of the ANC executive in the

public eye,” said Mazibuko.

Congress of the People (Cope) national spokesperson Phillip Dexter

said government expenditure displayed “a culture of conspicuous consumption and

spending of money willy-­nilly”.

Minister in The Presidency ­Collins Chabane claimed that the money

had to be spent on office space, cars and accommodation for new political

­office-bearers because of the transition.

He said the new ministries were necessary for the long-term

economic and social development of the country and would speed up service

delivery because they focused on targeted groups of people or areas.

Chabane added that while the government was implementing

cost-cutting measures in the wake of the ­recession, the global economic

­meltdown should not be used to ­derail the implementation of government

programmes.

“The recession is a passing issue, not a permanent global

phenomenon,” Chabane said.

“You cannot determine a long-term ­policy on the basis of a

short-term problem.”

Treasury spokesperson Lindani Mbunyuza declined to comment on the

exact amount the government expected to have spent by the end of the current

financial year.

Political analyst Prince Mashele said the government should be

­exemplary in its spending in the wake of the economic meltdown.

“On the one hand you are saying tighten your belts, while on the

other side you are visibly spending ­lavishly as a government. This ­constitutes

a contradiction.”


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