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Picture: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS
Picture: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS

If you’re wondering why the government seems less seized with the urgency of fixing load-shedding than it ought to be, revelations that R2.6m of your tax money is paying for generators at the homes of ministers and deputy ministers are deeply alarming.

This sparked an outcry, after reports over the weekend in Rapport and City Press newspapers, which were based on figures provided by the department of public works for the past two years.

As the DA’s Samantha Graham-Maré put it: “While hospitals, businesses and ordinary SA households have to struggle in the dark, the same fate does not befall the ministers responsible for this catastrophe.”

It is more egregious when you consider that each minister is paid R2.4m a year, while their deputies are paid R1.97m — before the 3% pay hike due to take effect soon.

“Ministers are paid enormous salaries, and while they refuse to solve the country’s power disaster, they should at the very least pay for their own generators and fuel,” said Graham-Maré.

On Tuesday, Graham-Maré submitted a complaint to the office of the public protector (somewhat ironically, given the DA’s battle to get the incumbent Busisiwe Mkhwebane booted out) asking for this to be investigated “with the utmost urgency”.

Her argument is that the ministers aren’t entitled to this, and would be receiving an “undue benefit” which they must repay. This stems from the “guide for the members of the executive” which says that any cost for water and electricity exceeding R5,000 a month “will be borne by the relevant member”.

No doubt the ministers, channelling the sentiment of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, would claim that their role in running the country is so vital that they need this extra entitlement

The scandal goes deeper, however.

Not only are taxpayers forking out to keep the lights on in the homes of government leaders — who bear the responsibility for bringing you load-shedding in the first place — but some ministers haven’t even had to endure blackouts. 

In particular, Bryntirion Estate in Pretoria, where President Cyril Ramaphosa, his deputy, David Mabuza, and several other ministers live, has somehow escaped load-shedding entirely.

The Tshwane metro council refused to respond to the newspapers’ queries on this, citing “state security” — illustrating a lamentably poor understanding of the notion of accountability to the electorate.

Ghaleb Cachalia, DA spokesperson on public enterprises, pointed out that even hospitals in the area are affected by load-shedding and the “pampered cabinet” should be subjected to the rolling blackouts just like everyone else.

This is even more outrageous when you consider the story relayed by the DA of a four-year-old who died from injuries sustained in a car accident, after he was turned away from the Alexandra Health Centre because the clinic’s generator hadn’t been working for two weeks.

No doubt the ministers, channelling the sentiment of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, would claim that their role in running the country is so vital that they need this extra entitlement. 

“Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk, and eat those apples,” says Squealer, when the other animals ask why the farm’s new leaders are getting so much more than everyone else.

Expect to find a version of this in a government press statement any time soon. 

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