DA delivers ultimatum to Ramaphosa: Scrap Ministerial Handbook or society marches on Bryntirion Estate

Issued by Dr Leon Schreiber MP – DA Shadow Minister for Public Service and Administration
17 Oct 2022 in News

The following remarks were delivered by Dr Leon Schreiber MP during a media briefing today. Please find attached photos here and here.

Over the past two weeks, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has methodically exposed to the people of South Africa how President Cyril Ramaphosa secretly abuses the Ministerial Handbook to dish out expensive perks to ministers and deputy ministers.

Due to Ramaphosa’s amendments to the Handout Handbook, taxpayers now have to foot the entire water and electricity bills for official ministerial residences, whether they are government-owned or privately-owned. Under Ramaphosa’s amendments, taxpayers will also spend R87 million more every year on additional staff in ministerial offices.

News about these amendments came in the midst of a spiralling cost-of-living crisis, rolling electricity blackouts and a full-blown water emergency in Gauteng.

These changes were also implemented under a veil of complete secrecy back in April this year. It was only through the work of the DA in Parliament that we were able to uncover and expose these costly amendments. That the President has dictatorial powers to force taxpayers to pay millions more for ministerial perks without even having to report this to Parliament is an assault on our democracy.

It is a flagrant conflict of interest that Ramaphosa unilaterally and secretly decides on perks for himself and his Cabinet colleagues, even when these perks cost the people of this country so dearly.

The DA has already laid a complaint with the Public Protector over the apparent fact that there is no law that provides for the existence of the Ministerial Handbook.

In our view, it is also clearly inconsistent with the Constitution that the President can hide his milking of taxpayers from Parliament. But Ramaphosa need not wait for the Public Protector to make a finding. It should be obvious to him that the public does not accept his government’s lame excuses for why the President should have dictatorial powers over this Handbook.

As a result, the DA is today directing an ultimatum to Ramaphosa personally to:

  • Apologise to the people of South Africa for feasting on their suffering;
  • Scrap the Ministerial Handbook in its current form; and
  • Replace the Handbook with an open and transparent new process where Parliament gets the power to decide which limited and properly costed Cabinet benefits may be warranted in certain cases.

Ramaphosa has until this Friday, 21 October, to meet the DA’s demands. We have noted that various civil society formations share the DA’s concerns about this issue, including Cosatu. Consequently, if Ramaphosa fails to meet our demands by Friday, we will extend a hand of cooperation to formations across civil society to mobilise for a march on the scene of Ramaphosa’s crime: Bryntirion Estate in Pretoria.

This estate is home to dozens of ministerial mansions, including the official presidential residence, Mahlamba Ndlopfu. It is behind the walls of this estate that ANC ministers and deputy ministers raise their glasses to the fact that they enjoy free electricity and water while the rest of the country is crippled by power blackouts and thirst.

It is inside the mansions on this estate that ministers are fed by food aides and feted like royalty while 30 million South Africans live in extreme poverty, with many trapped on the verge of starvation. It is inside Bryntirion Estate where Ramaphosa and his fellow ANC cadres live like kings – Secure in Comfort – and completely insulated from the suffering they have caused for everyone trying to scrape by outside the palace walls.

Ramaphosa’s response to this crisis of confidence in his administration has been lacklustre. Instead of apologising for his insultingly dictatorial conduct and withdrawing these perks, Ramaphosa sent Minister Mondli Gungubele to try and defend the indefensible.

In a country with 34% unemployment, Gungubele claimed with a straight face that ministers who get paid R2.4 million per year deserve free electricity and water because their jobs are supposedly “insecure.” It would be hard to find a more blatant admission of how out-of-touch the ANC government is with the people it is supposed to serve.

The truth is that these new benefits are indefensible. Ordinary South Africans who are lucky enough to be employed use their salaries to pay for their own water, electricity and homes. If taxpayers pay for all of these things for ministers, then what is the point of their R2.4 million salaries?

In effect, South Africans are paying double salaries to a Cabinet that has failed them on every conceivable metric.

It is this point that President Ramaphosa apparently fails to understand. The public outcry we have witnessed over the past week is not purely about taxpayers footing the water and electricity bills of a failed Cabinet. It is about what it symbolises.

South Africans know that it is purely due to the ANC’s thievery and incompetence that our country no longer has a reliable supply of electricity. They know that, even though the dams are full, taps have run dry in places like Gauteng because they ANC has destroyed the water infrastructure. They know that the trains have derailed, that policing has failed, and that our economy is collapsing due to three simple letters: A, N and C.

The public revolt against Ramaphosa’s Handout Handbook is therefore not only about free water and electricity, or the fact that taxpayers must now foot the salary bill for cadres that the ANC can no longer afford. The revolt is against the failed ANC itself. It is against decades of suffering and decline engineered by the ANC.

The revolt is against load shedding, against water cuts, against crime and against poverty.

Moreover, it is in Ramaphosa’s own best interests, as well as in the interest of our democracy, that he concedes to the DA’s demands on the Ministerial Handbook.

We only need to look to countries like Tunisia and, more recently, Sri Lanka, for examples where corrupt governments that had been in office for many years were forced from office over seemingly isolated incidents. In Tunisia it was the suicide of a fruit seller. In Sri Lanka it was skyrocketing food prices. Yet those specific incidents were merely the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

I want to warn the President that, given the scale of public outrage over his Handbook, if he refuses to accede to the DA’s demands, he will be putting our democracy in danger. South Africans are simply not going to accept the vulgar spectacle of a President telling them to pay for water and electricity they no longer receive, while he and his ministers get those services for free. The sooner Ramaphosa meets our demands, the better.

If the President fails to urgently scrap this Handbook, society will mobilise against him and his government. And the DA will be right out front leading that effort to sweep the ANC out of power in 2024, starting at the gates of Bryntirion Estate.