Cabinet ministers in South Africa don’t pay municipal rates, including water and electricity, despite their R200,000 a month pay cheques, City Press reports.
President Cyril Ramaphosa scrapped the R5,000-a-month spending limit for cabinet members’ municipal rates, meaning they can use unlimited water and electricity without paying for it out of their salaries.
The changes came into effect on 13 April 2022, with the ministerial handbook now stating that “the department responsible for public works shall be responsible for the costs associated with the provision of water and electricity to official residences”.
However, the perks of being part of Ramaphosa’s cabinet — which has 28 ministers and 34 deputies — don’t stop at free municipal rates.
The president also increased his cabinet members’ spending limit for luxury cars and supplied their official residences with generators.
Cabinet ministers and deputies can spend up to R800,000 when purchasing a new vehicle, up from R700,000 as specified in 2019.
However, the spending limit is still far more reasonable than before 2019, when cabinet members could spend up to 70% of their annual salary on vehicle purchases.
For reference, ministers earn up to R2.4 million annually, while deputies can make R2 million per year. Therefore, the vehicle spending limit was as high as R1.7 million for ministers and R1.4 million for deputies.
In the last financial year, R1.3 million was spent on providing cabinet members with generators, with a further R680,000 spent between April and June 2022.
The ministers and deputies were provided generators despite their official residences in the Bryntirion Estate in Pretoria not getting load shed.
Democratic Alliance MP and spokesperson Leon Schreiber said the amendments to the ministerial handbook “kick South Africans while they are down”.
He explained that cabinet ministers are allowed two official residences — one in Pretoria and another in Cape Town — and the municipal services for the homes are paid in full by the taxpayer.
Therefore, cabinet members can use as much water and electricity as they want at two residences, while the public has to pay.
The cost of their electricity use could increase significantly if the National Energy Regulator of South Africa approves Eskom’s latest electricity tariff application.
Eskom applied for a 32.6% electricity tariff increase after the National Treasury “turned off the subsidy tap”.
Political and economic analyst Dale McKinley explained that the South African power utility has no option but to apply for astronomical tariff increases as it is their primary means of generating revenue.
“Eskom has gotten to a point where it’s so hobbled — the coal-fired power stations are so old, so decrepit,” McKinley said.
“Raising tariffs is their main form of revenue generation, irrespective of the outrage that would accompany that given the services and the state of the utility.”
“That’s the bottom line unless we’re willing to pump a lot more money in [to Eskom],” he added.