Parliament’s blooming shame

2014-08-03 15:00

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The “compassionate government” of South Africa’s spending on flowers has blossomed to at least R1?million over the past five years, including more than R350?000 for a cleansing ceremony at the Gallows Memorial at the Pretoria Central Prison.

This amount for a single event is the biggest in a bouquet of governmental flower expenditure, which has bloomed over the past two weeks thanks to parliamentary questions.

So far, seven departments have replied with details.

The exact amount of R357?039.36 for the ceremony at the old execution site in Pretoria was spent by the department of justice and correctional services in 2012/13.

A total of R395?970.82 was spent during that financial year, including flowers amounting to R38?932.46 to the bereaved, for Women’s Day and a departmental “excellence awards function”.

The previous year, the department blew R5?300 to “decorate” its offices, according to the reply from Michael Masutha, minister of justice and correctional services, to a question by DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach.

In the 2013/14 financial year, the department spent R27?708.29 on flowers for Women’s Day, excellence awards and to send to the bereaved. This financial year, which started on April 1, R600 has been spent so far.

In other expenditure that sprouted this week, the department of human settlements spent R20?803.15 on 39 bouquets.

When Ilhaam Benjamin, a trader at Cape Town’s iconic Adderley Street flower market, was asked how she would react if she got this amount for 39 bouquets, she replied: “Oh jirre, I’d be so happy. I’d dance all day.”

If the department bought 39 bouquets of the orange and yellow roses she was carefully tying into bunches on Wednesday, she would have earned just less than R500.

And in President Jacob Zuma’s headquarters in Cape Town, aptly named Tuynhuys, his office spent more than R100?000 on flowers over the past five years, including R11?005.80 for “buttonhole flowers”.

Although seven departments gave a breakdown of costs as requested, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa shied away from specifics.

“The Republic of South Africa is a caring government and flowers are a token of compassion to people and/or employees in cases of, among other things, bereavement and hospitalisation,” Molewa said.

Five years of flowers

»Justice and correctional services: R429?579.11

»Public enterprises: R231?966

»Basic education: R132?335

»The presidency: R106?436.51

»Energy: R76?963.35

»Mineral affairs: R28?045.45

»Human settlements: R20?803.15

»Total: R1?026?128.5

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