Blade Nzimande BMWSince Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994 the ANC has said it is committed to ending poverty – and that its leaders are self-sacrificing servants of the people.

But what is the ANC’s record? What have their leaders done for themselves – their comfort, life-styles and their egos? Here are ten examples of extravagance and waste.

To this list must be added the money the elite have syphoned off into their own bank accounts, but that is another matter.


Ten examples of public-funded self-indulgence

by Gareth van Onselen, 25 May 2015, 05:45

Source: Business Day

1. Sarafina II

In 1996 it emerged that the Department of Health had spent some R14m on a play called Sarafina II, to help educate the public about HIV/AIDS. The money had been donated by the European Union to combat the pandemic. The mess that followed was spectacular. The play was incomprehensible in parts, and the cost inexplicably exorbitant. In addition, the contract had been awarded to a friend of then health minister Dr Nkosazana Zuma, and she in turn misled Parliament. Tender procedures were not followed and, ultimately, Nelson Mandela described it as one of the major mistakes of his administration. In many ways, Sarafina II was ground zero for the culture of wasteful expenditure that is now so well established in th national government.

2. Blade’s BMW

Jacob Zuma’s 2009 election to office brought with it a new administration. And that, in turn, brought with it new cars — all in the midst of an escalating economic slump. For six months a series of Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary questions revealed minister after minister had maxed out on their car allowance. But the man that made the biggest public impact was Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande. Outside of government, as secretary-general of the South African Communist Party, he championed socialist ideals. “It is through the consistent inculcation of (Mandela’s) values that we can roll back the greed, corruption and selfishness of capitalism,” he said. A week later he took charge of a new R1.1m BMW750i, at the taxpayers’ expense.

3. The fast-food premier

During her first ten months in office, it emerged in 2013 that Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas had spent R50,000, largely on fast food, using her government credit card. The sum included R26,500 in one month and R2,000 at her local SuperSpar. She had dined at places such as Spur, Mike’s Kitchen, KFC, Wimpy and Ocean Basket. Her explanation didn’t help matters. The Sunday Times quoted her as saying, “When we go out of Kimberley (where she resided) we go to the SuperSpar and we buy water and Powerade and cool drinks. We need Powerade for the energy, you know.”

Her office defended her spending — “There’s nothing untoward about it; she hasn’t spent money on alcohol or clothes. The (food) purchases are within her rights.”

4. Mpumalanga bling

The 2009 executive car splurge was dubbed “Cargate” and many have come to associate it with the current Zuma-led administration’s infatuation with status but, actually, the precedent was established much earlier. As the MEC for transport in the Mpumalanga government between 1996 and 1997, one Jackson Mthembu splashed out on 10 BMW 528s for the executive at a cost of R2.3m. His defence: “I am a leader in my community and therefore have a certain status — you can’t therefore be saying I should drive a 1600 vehicle.”

Mthembu narrowly escaped death when his driver rolled his own BMW in 1997 when a tyre burst at high speed. Two years later, he crashed a government-issued Mercedes Benz while driving without a licence.

5. Elephant politics

In 2010, eThekwini municipality commissioned statues of three stone elephants to be placed in the city centre at a cost of about R1.5m. After the deal had been struck, however, the ANC came to the conclusion the elephants resembled too closely the IFP’s logo and called for the entire project to be changed into a “Big Five” collection of animals. The ANC reassured people at the time it did not mean the party disliked elephants. Artist Andries Botha was having none of it;  he took the decision to court and finally won three years later. A statement read: “The municipality has acknowledged that it was unacceptable to Botha that he be compelled to change from his original three elephants sculpture to a Big 5 Design; and it has agreed to pay Botha’s legal costs incurred to date.”

In the three-year interim those statues that were up were vandalised, parts were stolen and some were covered in red paint.

6. Sing hallelujah

According to the reply to a question from DA MP Thembekile Majola, the SABC choir comprises 40 choristers, 25 freelancers and 15 permanent SABC staff members. Included in its R3m annual cost is a R10,000 monthly salary for each of the freelancers, as well as travelling costs. One of the songs it performs celebrates the chief operating officer with lyrics such as, “Hlaudi Motsoeneng reya o leboha” (Hlaudi Motsoeneng we thank you).

7. SABC status syndrome

There is clearly something in the air at the SABC when it comes to the chief operating officer. Amid much financial turbulence, former chief operating officer Dali Mpofu saw fit to use R123,000 worth of public money to pay for a glossy bit of self-indulgent PR in Leadership magazine, in June 2006. In exchange for the R123,000, Mpofu got 12 questions to communicate, “(the) new corporate strategy of ‘total citizen empowerment’ and to focus on the new vision the organisation has recently adopted”. The questions (at R12,300 a shot) included such sweetheart indulgences as, “Who are you? Where do you come from?” and, “If there is one achievement that you have made during your tenure, which makes the job seem worthwhile and gratifying, what would it be and why?”

8. The fire pool

No such list would be complete with at least one item from the list of extracurricula indulgences that were added to the “security upgrades” to President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla homestead. Of these, the swimming pool was justified as a “fire pool” by the state — presumably to be jumped into when things got too hot. The public protector took a different view. She found it and various other indulgences were unnecessary and that Zuma should foot the bill for them, at least in part. If he ever will remains to be seen.

9. Party time

One could produce a telephone directory-size document on the number of parties held by the state in the name of celebration and self-indulgence. Of them, the 2009 inauguration for KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize stands out as pretty exceptional. It cost a whopping R10.6m. According to the Mercury newspaper, it included: catering at the stadium (R1.15m); transport (R1.8m); hiring of marquees, chairs, tables and toilets (R1.4m); decor (R241,250); security services (R91,568); entertainment (R433,000); and communication, branding, sound system and interpretation services (R1.1m). Of the total amount, about R2.6m was used to market the event. Mkhize defended it by saying, “Ultimately, the people of KwaZulu-Natal will not emerge worse off because we shall communicate in a manner that will save more money through the approach we are adopting.”

10. Plane insane

Flying to America in 2011, Zuma took not one aircraft, not two, but three, estimated by the DA to cost a staggering R10m. There is extravagance and there is self-indulgence, but an entire second plane seems to take the cake for a combination of the two. The DA’s David Maynier said the trip to New York used a South African Airways Airbus A340 and a Bombardier Global Express XRS and required about 35 crew members.