Ramaphosa scraps unlimited free electricity and water for Ministers — but they still get R5,000 per month

President Cyril Ramaphosa has withdrawn an amendment to the Executive Members Guide that gave cabinet ministers and their deputies free utilities to their official residences.

The changes came into effect on 13 April 2022 and made the Department of Public Works responsible for covering all costs associated with providing water and electricity to official residences.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, announced the withdrawal of the controversial amendment at a media briefing on Monday.

“President Ramaphosa acknowledges and appreciates the public sentiments on the matter. However, the impression created that the amendments were conducted in secrecy and to avoid public scrutiny is false,” Magwenya stated.

“The withdrawal will give effect to the 2019 version of the Executive Guide, pending a review.”

Under the 2019 Executive Members Guide, also known as the Ministerial Handbook, ministers’ utility bills at their official residences are still covered by up to R5,000 per month.

Ramaphosa’s cabinet has 28 ministers and 34 deputies.

Ministers earn up to R2.4 million per year, while deputies can make R2 million annually.

In South Africa’s previous financial year, the country spent R1.3 million to provide cabinet members with generators, with an additional 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.

Aside from the utility bills, the Democratic Alliance has said Ramaphosa made several other extra allowances for ministerial staff that would cost taxpayers R87 million per year.

These are summarised in the table below:

Job title Annual salary Number Annual cost to taxpayers
Driver/messenger R283,227 63 R17,843,301
Food aid services R171,278 63 R10,790,514
Portfolio coordinator R1,147,609 28 R32,133,052
Registry clerk R283,227 63 R17,843,301
Administrative support and coordination R296,587 (increase) 28 R8,304,436
Total R86,914,604
Vincent Magwenya

Asked why the president had not foreseen the outcry, Magwenya said that the amendments were not made with ill intent.

“I suppose, with hindsight, we can say the intention behind the amendment was not a nefarious one,” stated Magwenya.

“The intention was to try and find some form of balance between what ministers could afford to pay versus some of the costs they have.”

Magwenya explained that ministers “inherit” two official residences, which they must then maintain in addition to their private homes.

“You have a scenario where you have costs for three homes,” he said.

“Be that was it may, we can no longer further debate that outcry and the merits of that outcry except to say, let’s accept what the public has given us as a message and let’s conduct a necessary review that will ensure that the next version of the guide is aligned not only to the public’s expectations but to the realities that many South Africans face.”

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Ramaphosa scraps unlimited free electricity and water for Ministers — but they still get R5,000 per month