Taxpayers fork out R7m for 40 trips to China ... and counting

China appears to be the destination of choice for government officials and civil servants. At least R7.45 million was spent on 40 trips to the country in the 2014-2015 financial year.

According to parliamentary answers already received, 10 ministers, four deputy ministers and 115 government officials had visited China.

These figures may still increase because not all the ministers had answered parliamentary questions asked by Democratic Alliance MPs about trips to China.

In addition, Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson – whose travel expenses have been questioned in the past – failed to show how much her trip to China cost.

“The minister, deputy minister and officials travelled to China. The details will be specified as soon as the information is available,” was Joemat-Pettersson’s answer.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said that her deputy, Phathekile Holomisa, and eight officials had visited China, but also ignored the part of the question about the cost.

The ministry of public service and administration indicated that the cost of its travels to China would be provided in its annual report.

The department of land reform and rural development, which is headed by Gugile Nkwinti, has spent more than R4 million on four trips to China in the past year.

A trip taken by Nkwinti from October 27 to November 1 2014 cost taxpayers R263 089.

The details of the other visits:

»October 24 to November 2 2014: 42 people, of whom 10 were officials, cost R1 109 570;

» March 22 until April 6 2014: 52 people, of whom 11 were officials, cost R1 356 849; and

» August 22 to September 7 2014: 42 people, of whom 11 were officials, cost R1 289 660.

The answer does not specify the identity of the people who were not officials.

“The purposes of the visits were to share experiences and international best practice in the functional areas of land reform and rural development, as well as skills development for youth in business,” said Nkwinti’s answer.

The revelations come against the background of President Jacob Zuma’s visit to China this week, after he also visited the country late last year. The presidency’s reply to the parliamentary questions has not yet been received.

Zuma is going to participate in the 70th anniversary of the end of the occupation of China and the Second World War on Thursday, Luwellyn Landers, deputy minister of international relations and cooperation, said last week when he announced Zuma’s visit.

“South Africa’s relations with China are at the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership, with the bilateral relationship being among the most vibrant and strategic,” said Landers.

27% of Cabinet has visited China. The following ministers visited in 2014-2015:

» Collins Chabane, minister of public service and administration (deceased);

» Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene;

» Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi;

» Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti;

» Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande;

» Transport Minister Dipuo Peters;

» Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi;

» Communications Minister Faith Muthambi;

» Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana; and

» Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

More names are expected to be added to the list as Cabinet members continue to answer parliamentary questions.

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