Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS
Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

The presidential inauguration scheduled to take place on May 25 will cost taxpayers a staggering R120m. 

A similar amount was budgeted for the inauguration of Jacob Zuma five years ago, while the event in 2009 cost about R75m. The national election this year will take place on May 8, and various pollsters and analysts says the ANC will win, paving the way for Cyril Ramaphosa to be elected president in the National Assembly.

According to a document by a multi-party task-team on the establishment of the sixth parliament, which was revealed by the DA on Thursday, the national legislature’s budget requirements pertaining to the inauguration are not included in the R120m.

“The [parliament’s] CFO will engage and negotiate with the presidency to have parliaments’ costs accommodated in the R120m budget,” the document states.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said the amount budgeted for the inauguration is excessive and cannot be justified, especially considering the subdued economy and the unemployment crisis.

“It is no secret that the SA economy is in dire straits. The government has had to fork out billions of taxpayers’ money to prop up failing  state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which have been gutted by decades of ANC corruption and mismanagement,” said Steenhuisen.

“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 May 25 2019 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane, is set to cost South Africans an astounding R120m.”

Steenhuisen said in the wrap up of the fifth parliament that political parties were informed that the costs for the 2019 presidential inauguration, as well as the opening session of the sixth parliament, would be kept to an absolute minimum given SA’s desperate financial state.

A budget of R60.6m was requested by the parliamentary administration for the roll-out of the 2019 parliamentary inauguration programme, which will see all 400 incoming MPs trained and inducted.

Steenhuisen said the National Treasury refused to grant this, leaving parliament with R8.4m from its budget for the 2018/2019 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 MPs, the public will now have to fork out more than R120m for the wasteful excesses of the presidential inauguration ceremony,” said Steenhuisen.

By convention, the inauguration of the president is held at the Union Buildings with a select, invited audience.

“While the SA public should be incorporated in the inauguration of a president, it is unconscionable that the presidency will spend hundreds of millions to transport people, taking precious financial resources from local municipalities to fund this jamboree,” said Steenhuisen.

He claimed that the presidency “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 R2m alone,” said Steenhuisen, adding that this is the clearest sign yet that the tightening of the expenditure belt has only been lip service.

“Ramaphosa is not committed to ensuring the people come ahead of flashy political events that the public must pay for.”

phakathib@businesslive.co.za