By Ed Herbst
In 2013, after criticism by members of the public about the extent of some of the perks provided for in the Ministerial Handbook, the then minister of finance Pravin Gordhan announced austerity measures for ministers in his medium-term budget review. However, it is not clear that these measures were ever implemented.
Pierre de Vos Daily Maverick 29/5/2018
Parliament wants to give its secretary and his entourage free rein to fly business class and sleep in five-star hotels at taxpayers’ expense.
Andisiwe Makinana Sunday Times 16/6/2018
‘It’s the g-r-r-r-avy’ was the growl which, a few years ago, signalled the advent on our television screens of a popular dog food advertisement.
One was reminded of this by a Business Day headline on September 30: Cabinet ministers can now rent a R4m apartment for R1,200
The opening sentence of the article read: Cabinet ministers will pay just R1,200 a month to live in lavishly renovated multimillion-rand apartments in Cape Town.
Cyril Ramaphosa became the political leader of South Africa on an anti-corruption ticket.
The majority of ordinary, tax-paying citizens support him in that goal as they showed when, in their hundreds of thousands, they linked hands in anti-corruption solidarity throughout the country on 30 September 2015.
Three years after that march and after 23 years of inglorious NDR snouting there is not even a patina of gravy left at the bottom of the trough. Nobody doubts the Sisyphean nature of Ramaphosa’s mission to clean out the ANC’s Augean stables, aka Gwede Mantashe’s ‘den of thieves’ – which is epitomised by the 5000% return Chancellor House received through the Hitachi boiler scam which delayed the Medupi project for years and the Guptaleaks.
One of the most egregious manifestations of innate ANC amorality is the way in which its MPs have for 23 years abused the deliberately over-generous provisions of the ministerial handbook.
The ANC’s Champagne and Caviar Communists and Cointreau Comrades, while constantly decrying colonialism, insist on buying cars which reflect a colonial heritage – such BMWs and Mercs – as befitting their exalted status. They deem these million-rand-plus vehicles to be essential despite the fact that their illegally-deployed cadres have looted their province, municipality or department into bankruptcy and even if millions of South Africans go to bed hungry at night.
See here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here – to mention just a few examples of the ANC’s insatiable lust for for taxpayer-funded luxury cars. Complaints by opposition parties are treated, as always, ‘with the contempt they deserve’. It is, after all, only taxpayers’ money.
In July, Mava Scott, spokesman for the Public Service and Administration Department announced that the department had completed the long-awaited revision of the ministerial handbook and said that it had been handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa for his final approval. Nothing further has been heard, the predation on the fiscus continues and nobody goes to jail except for Cynthia Maropeng who stupidly stole ANC constituency funds and not from the fiscus.
The handbook defines the various benefits to which members of the executive and some members of their families are entitled in terms of official residences, official cars, overseas trips and support staff – ask Faith Muthambi, she’ll tell you.
The revision of the handbook has been deliberately delayed for many years amidst calls from opposition parties that the process be expedited since ANC appointees continually abuse its provisions to feast at the trough and splurge on luxury official cars and overseas trips where they are accompanied, whenever possible, by members of their families – or married lovers in the notorious case of Dina Pule.
Taking their cue from the top, appointees in tax payer-funded bodies remunerate themselves with outrageous salaries and bonuses and splurge at every opportunity – the National Arts Council being a recent example.
In July, John Steenhuisen, DA chief whip, said the revision of the handbook was long overdue.
‘Had the revision been completed earlier, some of the abuses that occurred over the past eight years could have been prevented.
‘Ordinary South Africans are forced to deal with the increase in fuel and the 1% increase in VAT but the executive is not prepared to change the patterns of its spending. This luxury spending is simply not sustainable.
‘Each day that the revision of the handbook is delayed, is another day for the abuse to continue. It cannot be expected from ordinary people alone to tighten their belts. The ministerial handbook has been used for far too long to justify luxury expenses.’
The country is indebted to the Democratic Alliance for this resolute vigilance and tenacity in exposing the obscene greed of ANC MPs and for the constant questions the DA poses in parliament in this regard.
On 16 September a Sunday Times headline summed up the responses to the written questions that the DA had put to the 35 cabinet ministers in Cyril Ramaphosa’s bloated administration about the way in which they were exploiting the current ministerial handbook:
Ministers’ spouses take their free ride to international destinations
Relatives tag along on trips abroad at a cost of R7.6m to taxpayer
One of the congenital characteristics of ANC office bearers is that they are as frugal with the truth as possible. We thus learn only that an ‘adult family member’ of Maite Nkoana-Mashabane luxuriated in the finest accommodation, food and chauffered transport that 28 of the world’s leading cities could provide when she was our infamous ‘hole in the head’ Minister of International Relations and Cooperation between 2009 and 2018. During that time she caused world-wide speculation when in September 2011, she angrily refused to put her handbag through the X-ray scanner at Oslo airport. She then flounced off to hire a private business jet for a quarter of a million rand – your money and mine.
Accompanied, of course, by the obligatory ‘adult family member’.
But the sentence in the Sunday Times article that left me dumbfounded and angry was this one:
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga, married to senior ANC MP Mathole Motshekga, prefers to travel with their son Kabelo.
What possible official duties could he perform while overseas on a taxpayer-funded frolic that would benefit the average South African?
All this while children die in pit toilets and babies die of preventable diseases in our hospitals; while municipalities under ANC control are reduced to beggary and forced to auction their assets; while hundreds of thousand of people are put at risk because the ANC’s deployed cadres have turned the Vaal River into an open sewer and while Cyril Ramaphosa is forced to – ignominiously and cap-in-hand – approach China’s money lenders because of the financial shambles at every level of ANC governance.
The DA recently demanded more details about the official overseas trips Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, minister of defence and military veterans, undertook with her husband, Charles Nqakula, ANC MP and chairman of Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence.
29 international trips
According to her, she and her husband embarked on 29 international trips over the past four years.
Kobus Marais, DA MP, said in a statement that he would be writing to the minister to demand that she make public the full costs of the official overseas trips during which her husband had accompanied her.
He stated that although the minister had been specifically requested to reveal the full costs of these trips, this information was deliberately not provided.
‘The minister repeatedly maintained that her department did not have money to perform its functions properly.
‘But there is money to enable her to have her husband accompany her on trips to Paris, New York, London and Abu Dhabi,’ said Marais.
ANC MPs are quite shameless in this regard and an obvious example was when convicted Travelgate fraudster Beauty Dlulane pressured Sascoc to provide her with an all-expenses-paid, 10-day jaunt to the Rio Olympics in 2016. More often that not our sports stars have to provide or seek their own funding to continue their careers and no evidence has been provided to indicate how Dlulane’s presence in Rio was beneficial to them. Yet there was no condemnation from her fellow ANC parliamentarians who were probably upset that they had not thought of this gambit themselves.
Curbing these excesses has become imperative if Cyril Ramaphosa is to fulfill his anti-corruption promises but the extent of that task almost defies comprehension as the Zondo and Moerane and Nugent commissions confirm.
Does the City Press investigation into the installation of security systems by Bosasa at the homes of top ANC office bearers not indicate that far too many in the ANC’s upper echelons are on the take? Given that and the Guptaleak evidence, how can the ANC argue against the premise and the growing overseas perception that it is pervasively and murderously corrupt to the continuing detriment of the poor?
‘Our turn to eat’
Glynnis Breytenbach sums up the enormity of Cyril Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption crusade with a reference to ANC parliamentarians in her book, Rule of Law – A Memoir:
When they shout at us in parliament, ‘It’s our turn to eat!’ they mean that literally. They don’t mean ordinary South Africans. They mean their turn. The spirit of the ANC, of sacrificing everything for the communal good, is gone. I’m not sure they can ever get back to where they were. (P217).
What makes her point and the point that the African National Congress is devoid of honour and honesty, of grace and gravitas but, above all, of shame was the recent election of Phumlani Mkolo as ANC regional secretary for the Dr W B Rubusana district in the Eastern Cape.
That anyone could – while the country and the world mourned – desecrate the name of Nelson Mandela in the name of self-enrichment is so extraordinarily evil that one struggles to understand and assimilate it, but Mkolo is on trial for the role he played in the Nelson Mandela funeral taxi scam.
If ever there was singular moment which showed that the ‘Broad Church’ had morphed into a whited sepulchre, a moment that, in biblical terms, showed that the money lenders were not persona non grata in the temple, but actually run the place, this was it.
What this shows, and what we have learnt after two decades of the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution/ ‘I did not join the Struggle to be poor’ approach to the concept of due diligence, is that it covers up corruption, that it reveres its lawbreakers, will do what it can to protect them and expunge their criminal records – ask Allan Boesak, he’ll tell you – and that involvement in unlawful activity enhances your career prospects as a deployed cadre.
There seems, however, to be no limit and no end to the ANC’s perfidy.
Charity begins at home and home for Cyril Ramaphosa is parliament where he is supposed to represent all of us.
Political parties like the DA and Cope and organisations like Afriforum have striven for years to limit the access by ANC MPS to the ‘Gift that Keeps on Giving’, so far to no avail – think of the occasion when defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula suffered Absolutely No Consequences for using your money and mine to collect her son’s Burundian girlfriend, Michelle Wege (22) from the DRC?
The revised ministerial handbook has been gathering dust on Ramaphosa’s desk for the past four months.
Given the revelation of how ANC parliamentarians have doubled down on the Travelgate scam by exploiting, in every possible way, the very liberal provisions of the current ministerial handbook, any further delay in promulgating the revised version would be unconscionable and put Ramaphosa’s credibility at reputational risk.