When finance minister Tito Mboweni delivered his medium-term budget speech in parliament on Wednesday afternoon, some small but significant changes had been made to the draft which had been shared with journalists under embargo on Wednesday morning. Specifically, the curbs on cabinet ministers' pay and perks which had been in the speech in the morning had been somewhat diluted by afternoon. The cap on the cost of official cars had been raised from R700,000 to R800,000; a phrase about "downward adjustments" to cabinet and provincial premiers' salaries replaced with one about "further negotiations"; and a ban on subsistence and travel payments substituted with something fuzzier.

Were Mboweni's cabinet colleagues more concerned about their cars than about the country's catastrophic public finances? It was hard not to ask, especially after he arrived almost an hour late to brief media after the cabinet discussed the budget in its Wednesday morning meeting.

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