DA slams 'R120m budget' for presidential inauguration at Loftus

2019-04-25 13:46

The DA has slammed the "astounding" R120m budget for the presidential inauguration, scheduled for May 25.

A presentation by Parliament to the multi-party task team for the establishment of the Sixth Parliament, delivered in November last year, states that the inauguration has a budget of R120m.

DA chief whip in the Fifth Parliament John Steenhuisen said at a press briefing at Parliament on Thursday that the parliamentary administration had asked for a budget of R60.6m for the rollout of the 2019 parliamentary inauguration programme.

It will see all 400 incoming Members of Parliament trained and inducted.

National Treasury refused to grant this, leaving Parliament with R8.4m from their budget for the 2018-19 financial year. 

'Unconscionable jamboree'

"To plug this hole, numerous austerity measures were implemented, such as a reduction in staff; the secondment of staff from Provincial Legislatures; the re-utilisation of ICT equipment for new members; as well as negotiation with other government departments to cover strategic costs," Steenhuisen said.

"Yet, in spite of the drastic cutbacks being navigated by Parliamentary Administrative Services for the inauguration of incoming MPs, the public will now have to fork out over R120m for the wasteful excesses of the presidential inauguration ceremony."

Steenhuisen said, by convention, the inauguration of the president was held at the Union Buildings with a select invited audience.

Earlier this month, the Presidency announced that the 2019 inauguration would not be held at the Union Buildings, but at rugby stadium Loftus Versfeld, also in Pretoria. 

"Hosting the inauguration in a stadium, the largest in the City of Tshwane, will allow for greater public participation in this important national event," the Presidency's statement said.

Steenhuisen said, while the South African public should be included in the inauguration of a president, "it is unconscionable that the Presidency will spend hundreds of millions to transport people in, taking precious financial resources from local municipalities to fund this jamboree".

DA whip in the National Council of Provinces Cathy Labuschagne said it was even more astounding that the Presidency had instructed the provinces to send 2 000 municipal delegates to fill the larger venue. She said the Presidency had instructed that the cost of transporting these delegates to Tshwane be covered by cash-strapped local municipalities, providing a letter from the Limpopo provincial government to the mayor of Modimolle-Mokgopong as proof. 

Labuschagne claimed this transport could add an additional R2m to the price tag.

"The dire financial state of our municipalities is not a secret," she said.

"Our municipalities should be providing basic services to South Africans, not busing delegates to political events. It is incredibly irresponsible for the Presidency to redirect monies which could be used to fix potholes, provide water and sanitation to communities, to essentially rent-a-crowd for the inauguration."

Steenhuisen said the expenditure was a clear indication that the belt tightening that Ramaphosa touted was only lip service. 

News24 contacted presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko for comment. This will be added once received. 

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