Comment by John Robbie

SA Ministers - Why Splash On Money We Don't Have?

I made the point yesterday that Helen Zille is quiet these days – ‘Godzille’, she used to be up there, fuming and roaring, all over the media and you hardly see her these days. Mmusi Maimane seems to do most of the public appearances – it’s just an observation, maybe it’s part of the handover or maybe there are other political reasons; it’s just an observation.

As if on cue, I see Helen Zille has written an open letter about the South African economy and the state it is in – remember the Minister of Finance, Nhlanhla Nene said in the mini-budget that our growth forecast for 2014 has been revised down to 1,4%, which is pathetic! It’s terrible! Other emerging markets are due to grow at about 6,5% - that’s what we’re missing out on.

Of course we’ve got this massive deficit, there’s budget shortfall and it means we’re going to get higher taxation and of course the message is ‘everybody’s got to tighten their belts’ and ‘Ministers are not going to be able to take Business Class flights’, etcetera – fair enough, from the Minister of Finance.

But Helen Zille in the letter said that at the recent Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Geneva – with delegations from all over the world – most of the delegates, particularly those from the EU Parliaments, used public transport or they walked to get around. Geneva is a very expensive city. But four senior ANC Members of Parliament opted for four, individual, chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz’s to ferry them around from the hotel to the conference venue and back. That’s four Merc’s and four chauffeurs – can you imagine the cost of that in Geneva? The rest of the South African delegation who were there travelled in a kombi.

A British Member of Parliament asked: ‘Why should our country continue foreign aid transfers to South Africa, when we (South Africa) are splashing money around like that?’ In other words, it was noticed - this waste of money.

I am not saying it was not in the Parliamentary Handbook, what these Ministers did – maybe it was. But how can MPs act like that when things are so tight in the balancing of the budget? How can it be justified?

And it’s like Nkandla and it’s why people are so cross. The trouble in South Africa is that ruling politicians know they can get away with spending money on ridiculous things. That makes Nhlanhla Nene and everybody else in government – when they talk about austerity measures – look hypocritical. In fact, it makes them look stupid.

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