Mandy Rossouw

Zuma should tighten the belt (financially)

2012-02-09 07:35

It is in January that you learn the value of money. You indulged extravagantly in December, completely forgetting that a year-end bonus also has a limit and that January brings an extra load of expenses.

For the ANC, every month is January. Luthuli House never seems to get its act together when it comes to managing money and ensuring that all the bills are paid and there is something extra in the kitty for special events like centenary birthday parties.

This is not a new problem. When the movement was in exile during apartheid there was a relatively loose relationship with money – take it where you can get it and try and look after yourself in the process.

One former exile told me how it used to work.

“You should fundraise for the ANC and keep a little bit for yourself to give you money to live.” Because the ANC didn’t give you salaries, and you were anyway in exile for the cause, not for your purse.

When the ANC leadership came back from exile, they ran into double trouble. Suddenly they had to fend for hundreds of people coming back with nothing but the clothes on their back and the money from donors dried up – the former funders of the movement figured once a liberation movement is free it can go and find its own money.

The rumour was that when Mathews Phosa took over, things were looking up for the ANC bank account. But nevertheless there are still complaints from staffers they have not been paid properly and the sheriff was regularly instructed to attach the office furniture of the ANC Youth League.

After the centenary celebrations, lots of bills went unpaid and service providers these days understand that if you do work for the ANC, consider it to be a donation rather than a paid job.

What about the comrades that has been deployed to business? Human settlements minister Tokyo Sexwale was one of those, and although his return to government was more political than financial, a ministerial salary comes in handy these days, following the global economic downturn. Gone are the days that Sexwale could do an electronic transfer to Luthuli House of millions of rands because the lights have gone out and salaries had to be paid.

In government similar anxieties must be exist this year.

For president Jacob Zuma this should be the Year of the Tightening Belt, when he delivers his State of the Nation Address – and no, I don’t mean it THAT way.

But we must see it in every aspect of public life. The hotels must be less plush, the planes must be limited to one at a time, and benefits must not be rubbed in our faces, even if the ministerial handbook allows them.

This year it should be January every month, and then we might start believing the lofty promises that comes with every State of the Nation address. 

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