His measured response to the excessive, self-serving demands of MPs who want to extend their travel perks into retirement is commendable.
On Sunday the nation learned that Parliament’s oversight authority approved a plan to ensure that former MPs and their spouses receive between eight and 24 free flights a year for 10 years, at taxpayers’ expense.
This week Gordhan expressed his disapproval, saying the treasury is not going to supply additional money for this.
“So we are not talking about finding additional funds from the fiscus to support whatever changes in benefits that Parliament might be discussing for themselves”, he said. Importantly, he also said government should live modestly.
“Modesty is an important message to communicate to the public”.
Gordhan set a fine example in 2009 when he bought a Lexus GS 300 SE for R557 673 and an Audi A6 3.0T for R590 500. Although most South Africans would not be able to afford such vehicles, the prices are modest in comparison to what he is allowed in the ministerial handbook. However, his example has not been followed by Cabinet colleagues. Indeed his repeated messages on the same theme, including during his February Budget speech, seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
Highly paid MPs must be remarkably insensitive to propose such self-indulgent luxuries as extended free travel in a country with the world’s largest gap between rich and poor.
Yet the most glaring example of conspicuous consumption comes from Number One, who thinks nothing of spending more than R240 million of taxpayers’ money on his private homestead. If President Jacob Zuma had the moral conscience of Gordhan, the nation would be much better off.