Earth to Zuma – no need for new jet

2012-06-30 08:34

Let’s take a moment and think of our dear, long-suffering Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

After a tumultuous time in office, trying to make budgets balance and looking the ­other way on unauthorised expenditure, he now has to find R2 billion to buy a new jet for President Jacob Zuma.

There is no way such expenditure could be justified.

It is more than just the fact that we could have built thousands of houses, schools and hospitals with that money, or that Limpopo kids would have textbooks for the next 30 years if we had R2 billion to spare.

It is about the empathy that leaders have with the plight of people.

We live in an age where presidents, even African ones, are expected to live more like servant leaders than kings.

In Europe, the British and German heads of state use public transport and will not dare suggest that a massive chunk of their country’s fiscus be spent on frivolous luxuries.

In Malawi, President Joyce Banda gave up her presidential jet and fleet of fancy cars.

Of course this is more symbolic than practical, but it sends a powerful message that government money is not to be spent propping up the egos of those in power.

In South Africa we are still waiting for a ministerial handbook which would limit the amount of money our leaders can spend on fancy cars and flights.

There is no way that buying a jet makes sense at a time when the commanding heights of the economy are out of reach for too many people.

What it would justify is that the key criticism of former president Thabo Mbeki – that he is out of touch with the realities of South Africa – can also be applied to Zuma.

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