The following remarks were delivered today by the Chief Whip of the Official Opposition, John Steenhuisen MP, in Parliament.
It is no secret that the South African economy is in dire straits. The government has had to fork out billions of taxpayer’s money to prop up failing SOEs which have been gutted by decades of ANC corruption and mismanagement.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is fully aware of the state of our country and the fact that 10 million South Africans cannot find a job and put food on the table. Yet, in the face all this, the DA can confirm that the Presidential inauguration, scheduled to take place on 25 May 2019 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane, is set to cost South Africans an astounding R120 million.
In the wrap up of the 5th Parliament, political parties were informed that the costs for the 2019 Presidential inauguration as well as the opening session of the 6th Parliament would be kept to an absolute minimum given the desperate financial state we find ourselves in after 25 years of ANC rule.
A budget of R60.6 million was requested by the Parliamentary Administration for the rollout of the 2019 Parliamentary inauguration programme which will see all 400 incoming members of Parliament on-boarded, trained and inducted.
National Treasury refused to grant this, leaving Parliament with R8.4 million from their budget for the 20198/19 financial year. To plug this hole, numerous austerity measures were implemented, such as a reduction in staff; the secondment of staff from Provincial Legislatures; the re-utilisation of ICT equipment for new members; as well as negotiation with other government departments to cover strategic costs.
Yet, in spite of the drastic cutbacks being navigated by Parliamentary Administrative Services for the inauguration of incoming MP’s, the public will now have to fork out over R120 million for the wasteful excesses of the Presidential Inauguration ceremony.
By convention, the inauguration of the President is held at the Union Buildings with a select invited audience. While the South African public should be incorporated in the inauguration of a president, it is unconscionable that the presidency will spend hundreds of millions to transport people in, taking precious financial resources from local municipalities to fund this jamboree.
What is even more astounding is that the presidency has instructed the Provinces to send 2 000 municipal delegates to fill the new, larger venue. The presidency has instructed that the cost of transporting these delegates to Tshwane be covered by cash-strapped local municipalities. This could amount to an additional R2 million alone.
The dire financial state of our municipalities is not a secret.
Of the country’s municipalities:
- A total of 128 municipalities are in financial distress.
- Municipal debt exceeds the total amount allocated to local government from the national fiscus.
- More than half of the country’s municipalities have serious liquidity challenges, and are failing to deliver services, bill services and collect revenue.
- Governance, institutional and operational inefficiencies continue to plague these administrations, depriving millions of ordinary South African’s access to even the most basic services such as running water, electricity or sanitation.
Our municipalities should be providing basic services to South Africans, not bussing delegates to political events. It is incredibly irresponsible for the Presidency to redirect monies which could be used to fix potholes, provide water and sanitation to communities, to essentially rent-a-crowd for the inauguration.
In addition, this excessive venture is also presumptuous. The ANC is functioning under the assumption that it will be re-elected come 8 May 2019 when this may not be the case. South Africans are yet to head to the polls and cast their vote and will be doing so in 12 days’ time.
Under a DA government, this excessive spending would not be condoned.
The fact is that Treasury does not even have the money to give to municipalities to cover just their basic debt. Now the Presidency is asking municipalities to pay out even more money for a once off event.
This is the clearest sign yet that the tightening of the expenditure belt has only been lip service. Cyril Ramaphosa is not committed to ensuring the people come ahead of flashy political events that the public must pay for.
We must face up to the fact that the ANC, this time under Ramaphosa, is the same old bus that genuinely does not care about implementing a financial turnaround strategy for this country after the 08 May has come and gone.
On 25 May, South African’s need to know that it is money from their rates and taxes which should be spent on delivering basic services, that will be used to fund Cyril’s hoped-for fan-fare.
A DA run Presidency would immediately slash all ceremonial excesses to an absolute minimum. Our Leaders will be focussed on cutting corruption, delivering services and protecting, and building One South Africa for All.