Peter van der Merwe
Peter van der Merwe

F*** the poor, say SA’s porky politicians

Britain’s recently been shocked by the “news” that avaricious members of parliament have been fleecing the taxpayer royally. But their MPs are mere amateurs compared to those we’ve elected in South Africa who have their snouts so deep in the trough that they’ve forgotten why they are there in the first place.

The rot starts at the top. The government’s having Jacob Zuma’s official residence renovated for R50 million, ostensibly to remove all traces of Thabo’s pipe smoke, and having the walls of the ivory tower fortified against the masses who voted for him in their mindless hordes. Was the old one really so bad? Could we not have built 500 more houses or renovated some schools with that money instead?

But the bit that really says “fuck the poor” is the way South African-made sanitary ware is not good enough for the man who calls himself president. No, no. Why spend R450 000 on locally-made taps, basins and fittings when you can spend an extra half million of the taxpayers’ hard-earned cash importing it? I trust Bra Jake will bathe peacefully knowing that at least five families who pinned their hopes on him changing their lives are still living in tin shacks as a result of his hideous profligacy.

Then let’s talk about our esteemed minister of communications, Siphiwe Nyanda. The man clearly likes his bling — a habit formed in his days as an army general where gold braid and shiny bits on your collar are de rigueur. Makes one wonder why the fuss about gays in the armed forces — but we digress.

How much does Mr Nyanda like his bling? Oh, you have no idea. No sooner was the ink dry on his new employment contract than his mind turned to the biggest challenge he could find in his portfolio: how to pillage the electorate most effectively. His response was mundane only in its lack of imagination: he purchased not one, but TWO BMW 750i sedans for the trifling sum of R2.2 million. One for his office in Cape Town and one for his office in Pretoria.

Each car is valued at R1 135 000 and collectively come with R148 000 worth of extra features. The sun can be so tiresome on one’s face when you’re not allowed to have soldiers standing over you with palm leaves and leopard tails, you know.

Across South Africa the desperate poor are burning tyres on roads and throwing stones in a vain attempt to attract the government’s attention but some crazed refugees from reality in Minister Nyanda’s department believe that “the process of procuring the vehicles for minister Nyanda was done in accordance with prescribed guidelines, which are stipulated in the ministerial handbook”.

I could go on — the amounts we spend flying our ministers around in private jets, for example. The high-ranking officials who refuse to live in their mansions so rent others at our expense. Instead, let me remind you of the words with which Oliver Cromwell dissolved a rotten and corrupted parliament back on April 20 1653:

“ … It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

“Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

“Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defil’d this sacred place … by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d; are not yourselves become the greatest the grievance? Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse the Augean Stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings …

“I command ye, therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. You have sat here too long for the good you do. Go and get out, make haste ye venal slaves, be gone … ”

Right now, we could do with an Oliver Cromwell. Or two.

  • Lynne

    Well, don’t you understand that some animals on the farm are more equal than others?

  • Michael Liermann

    “Right now, we could do with an Oliver Cromwell. Or two.”

    What, you think we need to systematically start murdering the Irish? I mean, I’m in agreement concerning the low to nonexistent ethical standards of South Africa’s elected politicians, especially those in the ruling party, but is a quasi-genocidal religious maniac the best counterexample you can think of?

  • Ross

    The (often) misguided sense of entitlement in this country is quite shocking, and it can be seen in the poorest of the poor AND the richest of rich. Don’t know how we get rid of it. Maybe once ALL ‘the wrongs of the past’ have been sufficiently addressed…One Day.

  • http://Firefox old, female, paleface

    They/them/those humans who live on a loftier planet – the so-called ANC Elite –
    “Did not join the party to be poor.” Ntshentenze.

    The only honest words uttered in 15 years.

    http://www.thetimes.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=1037748
    Xenophobic attacks return

    http://www.thetimes.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=1037602
    Zuma must prepare for new wave of xenophobic violence

    http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=124&art_id=vn20090722064627771C592027
    ‘How much longer must we live like this?’
    “This is the beginning,” were the words of Johannes Lekhotla after a morning of mayhem around the dilapidated hostels in Thokoza, east of Joburg.
    They resonate with many others who took to the streets on Tuesday to demand basic services, like running water, electricity and toilets.

    http://multimedia.thetimes.co.za/audio/2009/07/land-redistribution-a-must-mantashe/
    ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe says the ANC government will go ahead with the policy of land redistribution. He said land redistribution “is a must and if we do not it, we are going to wait for a time bomb that is ticking”.

    Its already ticking people.
    ANC spend; promises remain – promises.
    “This is the beginning,” Johannes Lekhotla.

    RSA to be renamed SAZI. We follow their ruin. Loot the treasury.
    It took Zim 28 years how long will it take us ? ?
    Speed record ahead.

  • Bravo Ndlovu

    If all the people could stop and think about the plight of the poor including the holier than thou thugs in the private sector,who rob their employees of decent salaries and pay themselves undeservedly high salaries whilst they continue to collude and do their price-fixing dail light robberies and thus pretend the exorbitant profits that they make are solely due to their efforts. Get off your high horse and also chastise the people like Whitey Basson who paid himself R59 million recently and yet his employees in most Shop Rite Shops are paid on average less than R1000.00/month and have been casuals for more than 10 years most of them

  • Nomikos

    The problem, though, is that these people have been elected to their positions – and in fairly transparent elections too, may I add. But then again, does the “masses” really know what their leaders are like? I guess that is why the ANC is so adamantly opposed to a Parliament composed of representatives of specific constituencies, as this will mean actual accountability to the people …

  • LD Tsotetsi

    “A Cromwell or two[?]” But there would be no politicians left, then we’d have to create them!

  • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/petervandermerwe Peter Van der Merwe

    Good point, Bravo Ndlovu. The private sector is not meeting its moral obligations either. I feel an entirely separate blog coming on around that issue.

    Michael Liermann, you’re absolutely right – perhaps Oliver Cromwell is not the best example of restoring balance and sanity! But I felt his speech was certainly applicable!

  • Noko

    I partly agree with you, but I think that we are too quick to judge and blame particularly the ruling party at ever corner. Since Zuma took office, he is dealing with corruption and that is evident
    a) the CEO of SASSA was suspended
    b) The DG of Water affairs suspended
    c) the same officials in correctional services

    By enlarge I see progress towards proper governance, the issue is that it is a long journey. South Africans as a society despite you color or creed are greedy individuals and that is apparent in the manner that we deal with the resources at our disposal in the public or the private sector. Collusion by retailers, break companies the list goes on and on. There is a clear moral decay that has gripped our country and that is across the any class and or etc.

  • Lionel Byrne

    The poor people are starting to talk,you better listen very carefully to their call, you fat cats in the ANC they want a roof over their heads not over two million spend on two BMW;s the ANC are all talk and no action get off your fat arses and help them instead of this corrupt moves we read daily in the news providers BEWARE THE POOR ARE TIRED OF YOUR PATHETIC ACTIONS,HEED THEIR CALL

  • dave

    I guess that about sums up those in the high elected positions who rely on sticking to the rule book rather than sticking to the morally right thing to do……..but hey, why reign yourself in when there is no need and we only need to start to think of the possible consequences in another 4 years. As for the comment by Bravo Ndlovu, I think that the issue of Whitey Basson and other leading business people is that whatever we might think of their remuneration, never forget that they are creators of wealth, and are creating the money that our esteemed Minister blows like there is no need to think about why he is in the position of a Minister – hello….that would be a revelation….to serve the people…wow.!!

  • Peter Joffe

    Peter, you don’t understand this country at all – do you? Zuma has paid the price after he traveled on an SAA flight. That is the first and that is the last that he had to do so now, his rewards will not stop coming never mind the R5mil house. Now he needs a R4mil house for each of his wives. Surely this is fair after all he flew on a jet that was designed for the common or garden South African.
    There will always be and there always have been poor people so why waste gravy train money on them as there is just enough to go around for the fat cats.

  • anton kleinschmidt

    @ Peter….very good and I look forward to your blog going after our captains of industry because their disregard for the poor mirrors that of the politicians. Well said Bravo. The politico-corporate axis is what I call a toxic symbiosis of scoundrels.

    We desparately need to find a way to make the plight of the poor the principal focus of everyones attention. If we do not then the “haves” (black and white) will bear the brunt of their anger, not the politicians

  • Michael Liermann

    “Get off your high horse and also chastise the people like Whitey Basson who paid himself R59 million recently and yet his employees in most Shop Rite Shops are paid on average less than R1000.00/month and have been casuals for more than 10 years most of them”

    Bravo, I agree that the corporate sector’s ethics are no better and are often worse. But…the corporate sector doesn’t pretend, other than for PR purposes, to give a damn about anything other than profit. This country’s politicians, by contrast, claim to wish to serve the people.

  • El Classico

    @Peter vd Merwe – the corruption in England is acceptable when one compares it with RSA?
    Corruption is Corruption is WRONG.
    It doesn’t make it palatable because of the myth that there is less corruption in the West.

  • Gerry

    “Get off your high horse and also chastise the people like Whitey Basson who paid himself R59 million recently”

    Why is everyone so after the corporate fat-cats? Can’t you see it’s them who create the much-required jobs? Collectively they pay billions in taxes – both corporate and personal, employ millions of people and if it wasn’t for the Whitey Bassons of this world, we would be in real deep poo indeed – why don’t you rather acknowledge that people like them create instead of wanting to destroy them? Take away Whitey and most of those “casual” labourers would be out on the street with a carboard sign with a begging-hand extended.

    You go Whitey – if you make the money through employing people, actually doing what the government promises to do but fail to deliver, then good for you! How’s that for politically incorrect?

    (And isn’t it funny how Whitey Basson is singled out, but not a word is said about our black Billionaires like Tokyo and Patrice… chastise the white captains of industry, but not the blacks, hey! – but that’s not the issue here.)

    Viva free market capitalism, viva!

  • http://hardtalk Siphiwo Siphiwo

    Peter Van der Merwe

    Just a matter of consistency & fairness: Allow me to ask these few pertinet questions:

    a) where do the DA Western Cape MECs live?

    b)How much do their residencies cost?

    c)and lastly, Could you also please list other benefits + perks (fully costed) they are getting from the public?

    Surely, as a well informed Thought Leader, you’d be able to present your readers with this much needed information (in the same fashion as you’ve done with the ANC ministers).

    We are anxiously waiting…

  • Gerry

    And here is the most politically incorrect thing you will hear in your life, courtesy of artist and writer Douglas Coupland: “Poor people are addicted to the very things that make them poor”.

  • http://Papawemwebmail.co.za Papa

    Instead of sullying the ANC, why is the author not giving us what all MPL, MPs and ministers are supposed to get in terms of policy irrespective of the party to which they belong to? Let us debate policy and desist from tricking the readers with skewed analysis. If policy allows ministers to have two cars, one for Cape Town and one for Gauteng, is it the 1st time that this has happened with the current cabinet or even in the preceding cabinets it was so? Why not talk of moving parliament to Gauteng as a cost cutting measure, then all ministers will have no reason to buy two cars? Maybe we should advocate for policy change to have the ammount a minister has to spend on official wheels. If policy stipulates that they are entitled to buy one car for not more than
    R 1. 5 million, and a minister goes and spend R2.2 million instead of the maximum of R 3 million, then it is commendable for the minister to have saved R 800 000 of taxpayer’s money. Why give man a full chicken when you want him to eat only half of it? Just give him half-a-chicken and stop tempting people by giving them what you do what intend for them to make use of!

  • Naf

    El Classico, it is not a myth that there’s less corruption in the west. It is a fact.

    There is more corruption in Africa. There is less corruption in the west. This is why a Nigerian oil minister can buy a house in Johannesburg for one night, why the editor of The Herald in Zimbabwe can educate his children in Australia and why our provincial leaders ignore traffic laws.

    All of those British MPs are going to resign, or be sacked by their parties, or voted out. A huge scandal leads to change. When our MPs are corrupt, people like Siphwo step up to defend them, they get a job in another department, or things carry on without change.

    It’s a disgrace. We can stop it. If we want what they have in places like Britain we must stop it.

  • RogerP

    Has anybody checked whether any of these “fatcats” undertake any philanthropic activities out of their own pockets? Warren Buffet has given away a good chunk of his fortune (about a third, if I understand correctly) and Bill Gates contributes on a large scale to good causes.

  • anton kleinschmidt

    @ Gerry…..as regards the corporate fat cats you are absolutely correct in so far as job creation and tax generation are concerned. Nobody would deny these folks their reasonable reward for the value they bring to shareholders and society.

    In South Africa we have a dangerously volatile situation given the current high levels of poverty and increasing unrest. Unless this is dealt with we could see all those jobs and taxes disappear in a welter of popular anger. Do not expect our incompetent government to contain this anger. In this context it is reasonable to expect these captains of industry to show moderation in the levels of profitability they extract from the market and their personal reward.

    As far as I am aware food prices are dropping in most developed countries and yet we see our inflation rate remaining stubbornly high on the back of rising food prices. This adds a different perspective to the R59million because the poor are hardest hit by inflation given that they spend a proportionately higher percecntage of their income on food than the better off members of society.

    Viva moderation viva

  • Sandra

    Thanks Peter. Absolutely spot on, and superbly written. And agree totally with Gerry too. At least Whitey creates jobs, unlike those parasites who live off the sweat of others hard work.

  • Brad

    @Siphiwo – and this is why the current entitlement status quo is hard to change…”we’re only doing what others did”.
    It is inexcusable to cowardly hide behind the “but others are doing it to”. You’re not a 10 year old and be accountable.

    Politicians are Public Servants. Look up the definition of Servant. They are elected by the People, to represent and Serve their Common interests. To make decisions that benefits the majority. To ensure, as far as possible, that no-one is excluded from a equitable standard of living.

    Public Servants serve. They set aside their own avarice and selfishness to serve those who trusted them by voting for them.

    I weep and despair for the lost and squandered opportunities.

  • David

    I don’t think this is a function of where the DA live and what perks they get. This is to do with publicly elected officials, from whatever political sphere, extracting the urination out of the system. I see the Education Minister is at it as well. Oink oink!! I can’t see how a 7 series BMW, a Range Rover, etc. are warranted. I think the “ministerial handbook” should be updated to put a cap on the value of the purchase. Say, equivalent to 1 year’s salary? And if you want to buy 2 cars with that, go for your life, but you cannot spend more than that. That would seem fair to me. That is how the private sector would deal with such a matter – why not govt?

    As far as business is concerned, shareholders are involved in deciding compensation for directors and C-suites. Accountability. Here there appears to be none. And these are people we entrust with making decisions on our future.

    Just like ‘The Little Engine that Could’ (I think I can), we have ‘Jacob the Gravy Train’ – I know I’m gonna!!

  • Safe In Sydney

    @ El Classico

    This article does NOT classify the corruption in England/”the West” as “palatable”/”acceptable” – merely points out that compared with the ANC leadership’s excesses the British politicians are mere amateurs at fleecing the public purse.

    The really obvious difference is that in Britian the guilty politicians are being hounded out of office by the majority of enraged voters, whereas in South Africa the ruling party is repeatedly voted IN by the majority of mindlessly loyal voters, despite all the consistent evidence of gross self-indulgence against them.

    Clearly the majority in SA do not mind (or do not realise?) that their lauded party’s excesses are not only seriously eroding the governments’ ability to deliver “promised” facilities and services, but also showing that delivery is not at all their first priority…

  • http://kwerekwere.blogspot.com mundundu

    um, i have news for you — in south africa, the only people in “elected positions” are ward councillors, not members of provincial legislature, not members of parliament, and only marginally the president.

    you vote for the *party* and not, directly, for the person.

    that said, my son came home with a crap report. after i barred him from playing rugby for the rest of this season [because, apparently, it is impossible to be academically ineligible to play sport in this place], i told him that if he wishes to continue to bring home such crappy grades, he must go to the crap high school down the street and just join the anc already.

    [there’s an irony in this statement, given that i saw a government minister yesterday at parent night.]

    siphiwo:

    i don’t understand why parliamentarians and other lawmakers/cabinet ministers don’t buy/rent houses like the rest of us. or rather, the rest of us with jobs.

    ON SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTEEN THOUSAND RAND A YEAR, members of parliament should at least be paying either rent or a mortgage *somewhere*, right?

    i used to live in a secure apartment block just steps from parliament. [literally, just steps away.] i don’t understand why mps cant rent/buy apartments in the flats around parliament if they don’t wish to buy their own houses in central cape town. why must the taxpayer pay for them?

  • Alan

    Hey Siphiwo, can’t wait to get your barb in can you?
    Why not address the blog instead of trying to imply that there is nothing out of the ordinary in the spending of ANC fat cats. This is obscene and should be roundly condemned, especially by avid ANC supporters like yourself. If you want to, write a blog about the excesses of the DA and COPE. I will support you fully if you condemn them for wasting obscene amounts af taxpayers money on themselves, while their constituents live in abject poverty.

  • Gerhard

    The gravy train is alive and well. Time for these people to be exposed.Another fat cat is Jacob Modise from the Road Accident Fund. How can he be a civil servant whilst he is sitting on the boards of numerious other private companies.Some misinformed journalists call him a modern Robin Hood for trying to protect the poor, but in fact it’s just the oppisite.

  • David

    Makes me think of good ol John Prescott. He was known as ‘Two Jags’ for owning, well, 2 Jags. Difference with him is that one was his own, bought second hand, and the other was his government Jag. He copped a lot of abuse for that one… I’d rather have John Prescott owning 2 Jags. At least he paid for one of them! Our lot think its perfectly acceptable that WE pay for both of their cars. Disgrace.

  • Haze

    For pity’s sake, what did you expect?

  • Thomas C Kantha

    Welcome to the Never ever going to be poor again ANC land.No bread eat cakes and those who have uttered those words were beheaded.For the last fifteen years the rot has been setting deep and wide. Now we need another Mandela.Are there any honest South Africa loving politicans standing please raise your hand. God bless South Africa but Lord please banish these shameless politicans to hell.

  • Gordon

    This kind of abuse will only stop when they abolish the policies of BBBEE and Affirmative Action. When they appoint the best guy for the job or the best priced tender a lot of this abuse will fall away!

  • Perry Curling-Hope

    Peter,

    You left out ‘King’ Zwelithini

    Apparently, the royal household have been, figuratively speaking, ‘making pigs of themselves at the trough’ over running their ‘allocation’ by spending over R51million.

    Natal finance and economic development MEC Zweli Mkhize has duly ‘awarded’ some R42.4 million of public funds this year for the maintenance of the Kings household, (which excludes the Kings personal allowance of R100,000 per month) and assures that ‘excess’ will in future be contained by diligent audit.

    The king is now apparently most unhappy, warning that such constraints and a paltry allowance constitutes a threat to the preservation of Zulu culture!

    I did not know that the maintenance of someone’s personal household (Zwelithini’s is not the only one) was a matter ‘ in the public interest ‘ and fitting for the dole out of government largesse.

    Bravo, the ‘captains of industry’, (the ones not in bed with government through receiving subsidies or tenders, price control and monopoly protection at public expense), accumulate investment capital needed to grow the economy, which is the ONLY route to “a better life for all”.

    Government confiscate much of this capital and spend it and divert it into unproductive ‘enterprises’, mostly to serve political, rather than economically sound objectives.

    Only a portion is spent directly on the poor, the lions share goes to government itself, and to financing the manipulation of competitiveness between friends of government and the rest, i.e. the true ‘private sector’ without political connections.

  • Olwethu

    I like Tokyo. The man is very media savvy but he really doesn’t put a foot wrong. He doesn’t have time for theatre. He is going to rebuild badly built homes. And Tokyo is getting rid of corruption. He doesn’t have to steal from the people because he has made his own money. And he doesn’t waste money either because he uses his own car. Tokyo doesn’t try and be a businessman and a public servant – he has chosen. And the man is definitely not a racist. His wife is white and his kids are coloured. I’d vote ANC if it meant that he would be our next president, I really would.