Georgina Guedes

A new presidential jet, but how will we fund the universities?

2015-11-10 07:28

Georgina Guedes

I imagine that in government office 22a, a group of state numbercrunchers are analysing endless columns of figures, trying to work out what they can squeeze to produce the estimated R2.7bn that they need to make up for the university fee freeze.

I imagine that on the first day, they skipped into the office, thinking that they’d just use Finance Minister Nene’s budget contingencies. After all, that’s what contingencies are for, right? Unexpected items that pop up, no?

But then someone reminded them that the contingencies had been used up the DAY BEFORE the fee freeze was announced (conveniently) on the very much expected expense of government salary increases.

Oh well, scratch that then...So where could we find the money? Where could we possibly get R2.7bn  from? It’s a lot of money, you know.

Meanwhile, down the passage...

And then, another accountant from another department slips furtively past their door, carrying the approval slip for a R4bn jet for our president. The university fee accountants can’t go home, but the jet-buying team crack open a bottle of champagne and call it a day.

If only the budget for fancy presidential accoutrements could be the one that’s squeezed. But of course, we can’t do that. Because… hang on… why not?

An article recently published on Fin24 highlighted the fact that Jacob Zuma is one of the world’s most overpaid presidents whichever measure you use. For instance, he earns 34.5 times what the average South African is paid. The only other global leader who comes close, according to the article is India’s Narendras Modi, who is paid almost 20 times what the average person in his impoverished nation earns.

But, not content with getting an exorbitant income into our president’s back pocket, Zuma’s people conspire to surround him with even more of the trappings of wealth – Nkandla, a fleet of blue-light Mercedes and now a shiny new jet.

And honestly, if he says he knew nothing about it or didn’t request it, then he’s the most ill-informed, gormless head of state in history.

The people’s president

The message here is clear: Zuma’s all, “No hair, don’t care”. He would like a big house, lots of cars and a fancy jet, and there’s not a thing the rest of South Africa can do about it. When things get a bit heated and students are actually picketing outside parliament, he will announce a fee freeze, but with no plan whatsoever about how he’s going to achieve that.

And then, not two weeks later, he’ll buy a jet. He won’t even get his people to delay it because the timing is really pretty shoddy. That thing’s just going to be bulldozed through, while the people in 22a try desperately to fund our universities. No corners will be cut because the president needs a jet.

This is why people are getting angry. It’s very simple. If our government could just make one good decision – one single act that shows they are putting their citizens ahead of their own grab of funds – they could ride on that glory all the way to the next election. But Zuma’s allegiances run deep, and he isn’t going to run in the next election, so all he and his cronies care for right now is personal enrichment.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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