REVEALED: SA taxpayers coughed up over R870k for Norma Gigaba's overseas trips

During his time as finance minister, South Africa spent R873 366, 68 on international travel for Malusi Gigaba's wife Norma.

This was revealed in an answer to a written parliamentary question by DA MP David Maynier.

Maynier asked how much was the "total cost to the National Treasury of the specified person’s [Norma Gigaba] official travel since 1 April 2017".

The answer came in at what Maynier called "a staggering R873 366.86". 

Maynier also asked for further details on Norma Gigaba's travels to the United States, Japan, China and Singapore with her husband in November 2017.

From November 7 to 11 she was in New York for the Fifth Annual South Africa Tomorrow Investor Conference, and from November 12 to 17 she was in the Asian countries for an investor roadshow.

She was paid a daily allowance for the entire trip of R15 942.15.

"The former Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, who was responsible for the implementation of cost containment measures, and who regularly called for greater efficiency in the use of public funds, should have set an example when it came to belt-tightening in South Africa," Maynier said in a statement.

"The fact is Norma Gigaba had no official duties on the investor roadshows and taxpayers, who have been pushed to the limit by tax increases, should never have had to cough up for what were, in reality, a series of intercontinental shopping trips."

"In the end, even if the expenses are in line with the guidelines set out in the Ministerial Handbook it was simply wrong and the minister should do the right thing and 'pay back the money' to National Treasury," said Maynier.

The ministerial handbook says the following on "International Official Journeys": 

- Members and their spouses (or alternatively an adult family member accompanying the Member in official capacity instead of spouse) are entitled to first class travel for official purposes at the expense of the Department concerned.

- The costs for official journeys abroad by Members, and their spouses or adult family members accompanying them in official capacity, are for the account of the relevant Department. 

- It is not a requirement that the VIP lounges at international airports be used; however, for security purposes, utilisation thereof is encouraged. Where appropriate and if preferred, first or business class lounges could be utilised. To avoid the cost of unnecessary reservation of VIP lounges, the Department of Foreign Affairs should be informed of the travelling Member’s preference well in advance.

- Dependent children who accompany their parents on official visits abroad do so at the cost of the parents.

The Ministerial Handbook also contains guidelines on international travel for ministers, among which counts the following: 

- Ministers and Deputy Ministers may travel on official visits abroad if these are essential, in the national interest and with due regard to the availability of Departmental funds.

- International visits should offer real value and benefit to the Republic of South Africa (RSA).

- The absolute minimum number of officials should accompany members. Taking the necessity of financial discipline into account, Members should exercise their discretion and apply their minds cautiously in determining the number of officials, and the feasibility of their spouses accompanying them abroad. South Africa Missions abroad are available, within the constraints of their capabilities, to render support services to travelling Members, provided prior notice of the visit is given.

Malusi Gigaba was appointed Finance Minister in former president Jacob Zuma's dramatic late night cabinet reshuffle in March 2017, when Pravin Gordhan was removed. 

He served in this position until President Cyril Ramaphosa did a cabinet reshuffle of his own.

Despite a court judgment that Gigaba lied and acted unconstitutionally, and unlike other former ministers connected to the Guptas, Gigaba survived the chop and was moved to the home affairs portfolio. He held this portfolio when some members of the Gupta family were controversially naturalised.

In his very first appearance in the National Assembly as finance minister in May last year, the topic of his wife's travels reared its head.

EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi asked him if it was necessary to take his wife along on a trip to New York. She also wanted to know what the "wisdom" was of his wife tagging along to the States.

"My wife did not attend any official meeting, anywhere," Gigaba then answered.

"She went shopping!" yelled somebody in the DA benches.

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