NATIONAL NEWS - In a statement on Thursday, the DA was scathing about the millions that government will allegedly be blowing on a stadium extravaganza to inaugurate the new president after the May 8 elections.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen complained that it was a common cause that the South African economy was in dire straits following decades of corruption and mismanagement, particularly at state-owned entities, and there simply wasn’t spare money to waste on spectacles.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa is fully aware of the state of our country and the fact that 10 million South Africans cannot find a job and put food on the table. Yet, in the face all this, the DA can confirm that the presidential inauguration, scheduled to take place on 25 May at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane, is set to cost South Africans an astounding R120 million.”
Earlier, parliament had been told that costs to get the sixth parliament up and running would be kept to an absolute minimum, with a budget of R60.6 million requested by the parliamentary administration for the rollout of the 2019 parliamentary inauguration programme, which would see all 400 incoming members of parliament on-boarded, trained and inducted.
“National Treasury refused to grant this,” said Steenhuisen, “leaving parliament with R8.4 million from their budget for the 2018/19 financial year. To plug this hole, numerous austerity measures were implemented, such as a reduction in staff; the secondment of staff from provincial legislatures; the re-utilisation of ICT equipment for new members; as well as negotiation with other government departments to cover strategic costs.”
He said it was therefore surprising that in the face of such drastic cutbacks for parliamentary administrative services for the inauguration of incoming MPs, the public would now have to fork out over R120 million for the “wasteful excesses” of the presidential inauguration ceremony.
“By convention, the inauguration of the president is held at the Union Buildings with a select invited audience. While the South African public should be incorporated in the inauguration of a president, it is unconscionable that the presidency will spend hundreds of millions to transport people in, taking precious financial resources from local municipalities to fund this jamboree.
“What is even more astounding is that the president has instructed the provinces to send 2,000 municipal delegates to fill the new, larger venue. The presidency has instructed that the cost of transporting these delegates to Tshwane be covered by cash-strapped local municipalities. This could amount to an additional R2 million alone.”
Steenhuisen pointed out that municipalities were in no position to fund anything extraneous, with a total of 128 municipalities in financial distress; municipal debt exceeding the total amount allocated to local government from the national fiscus; more than half of the country’s municipalities facing serious liquidity challenges and failing to deliver services, bill services and collect revenue; and governance, institutional and operational inefficiencies continuing to plague these administrations, depriving millions of ordinary South African’s access to even the most basic services such as running water, electricity or sanitation.
“Our municipalities should be providing basic services to South Africans, not bussing delegates to political events. It is incredibly irresponsible for the presidency to redirect monies that could be used to fix potholes, provide water and sanitation to communities, to essentially rent a crowd for the inauguration.”
He also called the ANC presumptuous for simply assuming they would even be in power come to the end of elections.
He added that Ramaphosa’s commitment to tightening the expenditure belt was “lip service”.
The presidency had earlier said in a statement: “In a departure from the tradition of holding the inauguration at the Union Buildings, the event will take place at Loftus Versfeld Stadium. Hosting the inauguration in a stadium, the largest in the city of Tshwane will allow for greater public participation in this important national event.
“It is symbolic that the inauguration will take place on Africa Day, as it affirms the government’s commitment to advancing the African agenda and to strengthening ties between South Africa and its neighbours.”
Khusela Diko, the spokesperson to the president, said the theme of the inauguration ceremony was “Together celebrating 25 years of freedom: Renewal and Growth for a better South Africa”.
Diko said aside from members of the public, it was expected that heads of state and royalty from a number of countries would attend, as well as religious representatives, political parties, and representatives from regional, continental and international organisations and bodies such as the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the United Nations.