Despite the public being persistently urged to tighten its belt in light of current economic pressures, those in leadership positions seem not to be walking the talk, judging by the unabating abuse of the public purse.
Nothing highlights the blatant negligent misuse of taxpayers’ money than media reports that eThekwini municipality spent almost R1 million on the funeral of Durban tycoon Don Mkhwanazi, who allegedly had close ties with President Jacob Zuma.
Opposition parties in the municipality correctly demanded answers on why the municipality spent R750 000 on the funeral of an extremely wealthy man, when the same council only contributed R15 000 each toward the funerals of the eight children who were burnt to death in the fire that gutted the Lakehaven/Zamani Child and Youth Care Centre in July.
Making matters worse are reports that Mkhwanazi’s widow’s company is a regular tender winner in the same municipality.
Another explanation the municipality owes ratepayers is why it gave sums varying from R100 000 to R200 000 each to the families of four ANC councillors who died between June last year and April. Firstly, councillors do not render their services to their constituencies free of charge. They are on ratepayers’ payroll and can afford to bury themselves with the salaries they draw from municipalities in which they serve.
Spending a fortune on funerals of a wealthy businessperson and those of municipal officials is reckless and insensitive in a country where households living in poverty are sinking deeper into hardship and the gap between rich and poor is forever widening. Currently, several universities across the country have shutdown as a result of violent protests by students demanding free tertiary education.
The response from government is that it cannot afford free education. But what are the poor students supposed to make of daily reports in the media of billions of rands being either stolen or wasted by greedy and uncaring public officials?
A lot of this country’s problems would be solved if those in positions of power started leading by example. This starts with frugal use of public resources.