South Africa spent R1.8 million on beds for ministers

The Sunday Times reports that the South African government has spent millions of rands on the state-owned Cape Town houses of ministers of parliament.

This includes nearly R1.8 million spent on new beds in 2019 alone, R1.6 million on transport, and home renovations of R51 million.

The Department for Public Works reportedly supplied the data. It is responsible for the upkeep of homes in the country’s parliamentary villages.

The high spending came at a time when the government had agreed to austerity due to the country’s financial challenges.

It was over and above the high salaries earned by MPs, too. An ordinary MP earns over R1 million a year, while ministers and their deputies can earn over R2 million annually.

Parliamentary officials also get a plethora of allowances for cars and cellphones, food subsidies at parliament restaurants, and free flights for their families.

Ramaphosa scraps free utilities for ministers

However, these benefits were not deemed to be enough, as President Cyril Ramaphosa changed the ministerial handbook in April 2022 to give cabinet ministers and deputies free, unlimited water and electricity at their official residences.

Ramaphosa withdrew the amendment earlier this month following public backlash after news of the amendment broke in the Sunday papers.

“President Ramaphosa acknowledges and appreciates the public sentiments on the matter,” said Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya.

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

This 2019 version still gives ministers up to R5,000 free utilities per month — and around R2 million of taxpayer money has been spent on generators for their homes, too.

Vincent Magwenya

Proposed unlimited utilities “not nefarious”

Despite this, Magwenya assured the amendment to give ministers free utilities was “not a nefarious one.”

“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 maintain alongside their private homes.

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

“Be that as it may, we can no longer further debate that outcry and the merits of that outcry.”

“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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South Africa spent R1.8 million on beds for ministers