President Cyril Ramaphosa sought to dismiss the notion that members of Parliament were “living it up”. He said they often “struggle to make ends meet”.
In an engagement with the media on Thursday, Ramaphosa said MPs have been “cut to the bone because they have had no meaningful increase for quite a while”.
This is despite the president signing off on a 2.8% increase for ordinary MPs, on top of their million-plus rand packages.
The president was asked, given the constraints facing the public purse, whether benefits awarded to MPs and ministers should be revisited.
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Ramaphosa said: “I have seen Members of Parliament, who publicly seem to be living it up, but they are not. The work we take on or impose on them as MPs is quite costly, many of them don’t end up making ends meet.”
He said this is because they usually have to have two houses – one in Parliament and one where they come from.
“It may seem to many people that they are living it up and they have a very good life – believe you me, it is not,” Ramaphosa said.
The president said only if South Africa’s economic situation worsens would the perks of MPs and public representatives be looked at again.
He did not weigh in on a question that the public purse was used to fund former ministers.
He did, however, defend public funds being used to ferry ministers across the country.
On Wednesday, former minister of tourism Derek Hanekom was in agreement with National Assembly Speaker, Thandi Modise, that Parliament should cease to pay for former Cabinet ministers’ benefits.
Between 2014 and 2020, the taxpayer forked out R45.3 million on business class travel for former ministers, deputies, premiers and their spouses, Parliament previously said.
Parliament also pays for medical aid contributions enjoyed by former members of provincial legislatures.
“We are engaging the former members of the executive on their continued benefits. The reason we do that, is that the budget for former ministers comes from the budget of Parliament and we cannot continue to do it,” Modise said.
Hanekom, an ANC national executive committee (NEC) member, responded to Modise’s statements indicating that he agreed with her stance.
“I fully agree with the speaker on this one – speaking as a former Cabinet minister. There is no justification for free flights or any special treatment because you were once a minister. Bite the bullet – end it!” Hanekom said on Twitter.
I fully agree with the Speaker on this one – speaking as a former Cabinet Minister. There is no justification for free flights or any special treatment because you were once a Minister. Bite the bullet – end it! https://t.co/ltWberwVWM
— Derek Hanekom (@Derek_Hanekom) June 2, 2021