South Africa: No More Free Rides For Government Fat Cats

Taxpayers already burdened by escalating costs of food and fuel will no longer pay the water and lights bills of government ministers.

The government fat cats living lavishly on salaries of R2.4 million for ministers and R2 million for deputy ministers have, for years, been exempted from paying their utilities bills.

But a public outcry has forced President Cyril Ramaphosa to review the Ministerial Handbook, forcing the “honourable ministers” to pay like the rest of us.

The new handbook was amended to remove a cap on municipal utilities for ministers and their deputies.

Perks included free water and electricity and ministers and deputy ministers would be entitled to employ more staff, at a cost of R87 million to taxpayers.

The amendment to the handbook came months after the president announced a salary hike of 3% for politicians and other government officials, backdated to April 2021 and applicable to all categories of public office bearers.

The announcement of the withdrawal of the handbook was made by the president’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, on Monday.

Briefing the media, Magwenya said Ramaphosa acknowledged the public sentiment on the matter.

“The President has listened, the President appreciates the public outcry in the context of economic socio pressures South Africans are facing. We can take heart in the fact that the President has ordered the withdrawal of this.”

The handbook had been met with outrage from the public, civil society and political parties.

In the previous handbook there was a cap; the Department of Public Works was responsible for providing water and electricity, provided the cost was limited to R5,000 per month.

The Democratic Alliance had given the president an ultimatum to do away with the handbook by 21 October.

Ramaphosa’s decision comes as Eskom has applied for a 32% hike in electricity tariffs.

The City of Johannesburg has proposed an electricity tariff hike of 14.59% and a 6.8% increase for both water and sanitation tariffs.

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