Newsroom/Press Releases/

Proposed new Ministerial Handbook a joke at the expense of the poor

Kobus Marais, Shadow Minister of Public Service and Administration
19 February 2012

Eleven days ago, President Jacob Zuma closed his State of the Nation Address with a quote from Charlotte Maxeke urging his “compatriots” to “kill that spirit of self” and to “not live above your people, but live with them”.

The revisions to the Ministerial Handbook mooted this week by Minister of Public Service and Administration Roy Padayachie indicate that this credo will not apply to President Zuma’s Cabinet.

Minister Padayachie said that ministers were likely to be given car allowances equivalent to 60% of their annual salaries. Ministers earn R1.8 million a year. The minimal reduction in the car allowance, which was previously set at 70% of the ministers’ annual salaries, will mean that every minister will still be able to spend R1.08 million on his or her car.

Minister Padayachie’s proposal is a cruel joke at the expense of the poor.

Must we remind him that the average annual income in South Africa is R36 253? Or that more than 2.5 million people live on less than R15 a day?

It is obscene for Ministers to imply that they are “doing the right thing” by trading the BMW 750Li, S500 Mercedes or Range Rover 5.0 which they would have been able to afford with their previous allowance for the “humble” Porsche Panamera, S350 Mercedes or BMW 740i, which they would still be able to buy with their proposed adjusted allowance.

In the Western Cape, Premier Helen Zille introduced a “no frills” ministerial handbook for the provincial executive in May 2010. Ministers in the Western Cape are allowed to choose official vehicles with a total purchase price of not more than 40% of their annual salary (which is considerably lower than a national minister’s salary).

If government is serious about “living with” the people of South Africa, a new Ministerial Handbook must not be used to justify the funding of platinum lifestyles with public money. Minister Padayachie will need to go back to the drawing board if he wants the Ministerial Handbook to be taken seriously.