Cape Town – South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) secretary general, Zwelinzima Vavi, has slammed the government over its explanation on the provision of free water and electricity to ministers living in state-owned residents.
Vavi spoke during an interview on eNCA after it emerged that ministers and their deputies allegedly had unlimited free water and electricity as perks of the executive.
“We are disgusted, but we are not, however, surprised.
“Basically, the government says we are not providing these free water and electricity services to people residing in their private residences, but we are providing to those we are also giving free houses.
“The houses are provided by the taxpayer and (the government is saying) we feel that there is nothing with us giving them free houses, free electricity, free water, free rates that the municipality would have demanded if these were just ordinary people. And they see nothing wrong,” Vavi said.
He said South Africans were supposed to pay for these services while ministers were living in “ivory towers, completely isolated” from what was happening in the country
“They were here when Saftu and countless other working-class formations staged a 24-hour national shutdown. People are saying they can no longer afford to live in this country. The cost of living is escalating beyond their salaries, government pensions,” he said.
He added: “They know deep down in their hearts that what they are doing is wrong. They are betraying their own conscience. They are kicking the poor, the marginalised majority, who find themselves in deeper levels of poverty, thanks to their (government) programmes. They are kicking those people in their faces and they are basically showing us the middle finger to say we don’t care about what you are going through.”
The Citizen reported that the politicians, earning R2 million and R2.4 million, were exempted from paying rates and these services after President Cyril Ramaphosa changed the rules of Cabinet’s perks.
The change was made in April when electricity tariffs increased, the report said, adding that this meant that the Department of Public Works will now pay for the water and electricity at state-owned residences.
The revision came months after Ramaphosa announced salary hikes for politicians and government officials in order for them to be able to cope with the increasing cost of living, the report said.
“The Department of Public Service and Administration sets out the provisions in the Ministerial Handbook. These provisions are part of the package that comes with being a member of the executive as they are living in state-owned houses in service of the country,” IOL quoted government spokesperson, Phumla Williams as saying.
However, the report said ministers and deputy ministers paid for the usage of electricity and water at their private residences.
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Compiled by Olwethu Mpeshe