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ANC unapologetic about millions spent on luxury hotel accommodation
Attempt to gloss over anti-poor spending is disingenuous and dishonest
DA has submitted enquiry about status of wasteful expenditure Task Team
The ANC's response to the ever-growing amount its representatives in public office have wasted on privilege and luxury is fairly breathtaking. Rather than come up with a plan to cut back on lavish spending on items such as luxury cars, top-end hotels and extravagant dinners, the ANC National Spokesperson Jackson Mthembu defended such spending, stating - unapologetically - that ‘no luxury can be derived in staying and working from a hotel environment where you have no total privacy than staying in a proper home'. These are the words of a dissembler. They are disingenuous and dishonest: a shameful veneer designed to gloss over the anti-poor behaviour that has seen over R1.5 billion wasted on self-indulgence.
It is reported that serial-splurger Blade Nzimande has joined Siphiwe Nyanda as high flying residents of the five star Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town. Their respective homes must be truly spectacular given the specifications of the Mount Nelson Hotel. The hotel website boasts the following ‘luxuries':
• Luxurious rooms and suites, spacious, grand and elegant, with spectacular views of Table Mountain and the verdant hotel gardens, and spacious lounges and dining areas.
• Two heated swimming pools within the hotel's lush ‘urban oasis' garden setting
• Magnificent flood-lit tennis courts located behind sprawling tennis court lawns
• A well equipped fitness centre, complete with personal trainers
• A new yoga, complete with feature inspiring music, fresh flowers, candlelight, therapeutic scents and post-yoga refreshments
• On-site golf practice net
• On-site hair salon
• Among the best restaurants in Cape Town - including one offering buffet breakfasts and alfresco lunches served on sun-splashed terraces.
• A world class holistic spa experience, where the trilogy of mind, body and spirit is nurtured
Presumably these are standard items in each Minister's personal residence.
Mthembu's response encapsulates the ‘bling' attitude towards public funds that the ANC has increasingly acquired under the Zuma administration, one that sees the state as a vehicle for personal enrichment at the expense of ordinary South Africans.
With unemployment rising across the eight ANC-controlled provinces, and many communities suffering as a result of poor service delivery - itself a consequence of the ANC's misguided policy of ‘cadre deployment' - Mthembu's outburst reveals just how out of touch the ANC has become under the current administration. Despite having wasted close to R 1.5 billion on unnecessary luxuries for Ministers, Deputy Ministers and public officials, Mthembu went so far as to say there was ‘nothing immoral' about such spending and instead suggested that news reports documenting wasteful and fruitless expenditure by senior ANC members amounted to an ‘abuse of press freedom'.
The ANC National Spokesperson's reponse follows a number of squeamish attempts to rationalize excessive luxury spending by members of the ANC government. These include:
• Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande on his R 1.1 million BMW 750i: ‘I have not abandoned my values. I don't think I've abandoned my moral leadership. I am still a communist, I am still committed to the working class'
• The South African Communist Party, in defence of Minister Nzimande, despite revelations that he had spent approximately R 40 000 on 15 nights at the Mount Nelson Hotel: "Minister Nzimande does not condone wasteful expenditure under any circumstances and stands firm in his condemnation of greed, corruption and selfishness in society" and also, that he stands "opposed to any form of unnecessary extravagance'
• Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, after being confronted by the DA's plan to cut wasteful expenditure on new luxury cars: ‘So, we'd all like to be more Catholic than the Pope, and we commend the Honourable Zille on having attained that status, but let's be real about this issue as well'
• Minister of Communications Siphiwe Nyanda on his two BMW 750i's, valued at R 1.1 million each: it was ‘absurd for Cosatu to suggest that the minister should now return the official vehicles, the tools with which he is supposed to deliver on his mandate and meet the expectations of the public'
• President Jacob Zuma suggesting that wasteful and fruitless expenditure would be curtailed in ligh of the global economic crisis: ‘The matter has been raised. I don't think now we are seeing the continuation of that'
In attempting to defend the indefensible, this stream of excuses and rationalisations reveals the extent to which the ANC elite will resort to ‘doublespeak' - the term coined by George Orwell to denote holding two opposing positions simultaneously - to put its own selfish interests before those of the South African public, and especially the poor. In doing so, one is reminded of another Orwell reference, this time from Animal Farm, when one of the characters, Squealer announces that ordinary animals will no longer be receiving apples and milk, which will instead be reserved for the pigs: ‘You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health'
The same principle applies to wasteful expenditure. Attempting to justify spending hundreds of millions of rand of public money on unnecessary luxuries for the ANC elite not only undermines the fight against poverty, it is also highly dishonest.
My colleague Lindiwe Mazibuko MP has written to Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi enquiring about the status of the Task Team set up by government over a year ago (in July 2009) to review government expenditure and requested that he inform us as to when its findings will be announced. A copy of the DA's Wasteful Expenditure Monitor report was provided along with the letter.