One-way ticket to a banana republic

After Nkandlagate, some of us thought that government couldn’t possibly sink even lower.

 Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking that Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on the R246 million spent on President Jacob Zuma’s home would chasten our ruling class and its predilection for conspicuous consumption.

But no – they could not even manage to pretend to be frugal until after the elections.

Yesterday the Sunday Times reported on a proposal now before Parliament that would give retired MPs and their spouses up to 24 free flights every year for 10 years after they end their terms.

Here, as in so many other cases, “free” actually means “paid for by the taxpayer”.

According to the proposal, MPs who served one term will get eight economy class tickets a year, those who served two terms will get 16 economy class flights, and those who served three terms will get 24 business-class tickets.

The costs associated with this would naturally be enormous, even more so if members of all the provincial legislatures are also included in the scheme, as Parliament’s oversight authority wants it to be.

We cannot for a moment imagine that the people who come up with these sorts of proposals are unaware of the desperate economic plight faced by the majority of our citizens. We then have to conclude that these are the sort of people who think there’s nothing wrong with spending potentially hundreds of millions of rands on giving former lawmakers 10-year tickets on the gravy plane. This while so many of the people they supposedly represent are forced to walk tens of kilometres just to access clean water.

It’s part of a me-first culture that has come to dominate South Africa, with the much vaunted principle of ubuntu apparently in very short supply.

Ubuntu is often explained to mean that “a person is a person through other people”; for our ruling elite, a person is a person only on election day, when he or she can cast a vote to keep leaders on the gravy plane.


today in print