This is how much taxpayer money is spent on electricity, water and generators for ministers in South Africa

 ·24 Mar 2023

South Africans are paying millions of rands annually to foot the bill for water and electricity at ministerial homes across the country – amounting to just under R55 million since 2019.

Responding to a written parliamentary Q&A, the department of public works and infrastructure revealed the total public funds spent on paying the water and electricity bills at state-owned official residences.

The response came to questions posed by the Democratic Alliance (DA), which asked the department for these figures from 1 June 2019, including the number of public funds that have been spent on procuring and installing alternative power supply – such as generators, inverters and solar and other electrical systems.

According to the department, Taxpayers have spent R54.9 million on paying the water and electricity bills at state-owned official residences in Cape Town and Pretoria.

This included R25.8 million sent for ministerial homes in Cape Town and R29.1 million for homes in Pretoria.

The R29.2 million spent on the homes of ministers and deputy ministers in Pretoria also included R7 million spent on procuring and installing alternative power supply to some houses. At the same time, the department noted that no backup utilities were installed in the homes in Cape Town.

Currently, there are 97 official residences in South Africa, with 58 ministerial homes in Cape Town and 39 in Pretoria.

The breakdown of the total amount of public funds that have been spent on paying the water and electricity bills at state-owned official residences is shown in the tables below.

Cape Town residences 

The table below shows the annual amounts paid for electricity and water for the homes of ministers and deputy ministers combined since 2019.

2019/20 2020/21 2021/22 2022/23 Total
Electricity R5 119 892 R5 116 076 R4 895 002 R3 206 049 R18 337 019
Water R2 278 388 R2 124 544 R2 398 891 R690 951 R7 492 674
Total R7 398 280 R7 240 620 R7 293 893 R3 897 000 R25 829 693

Pretoria residences

While the department failed to provide an annual breakdown for these official residences, it did provide a total estimate for both ministers and deputy ministers since 2019, including the cost incurred for water and electricity and alternative power supply.

Position Water and electricity Alternative power supply Total
Minister R5 753 334 R2 000 000 R7 753 334
Deputy minister R16 325 144 R5 040 000 R21 365 144
Total R22 078 478 R7 040 000 R29 118 478

These bills, footed by the taxpayers of South Africa, are in accordance with the ministerial Handbook – a  guide to the ‘benefits and privileges that members of the cabinet are entitled to.

According to the Handbook, members are entitled to free water and electricity (up to R5,000 a month) and generators for ministerial homes, which former public works minister Patricia De Lille has noted cost the government R2.6 million at the end of 2022 alone.

Additional perks include luxury vehicles, VIP protection, and international travel.

This is on top of the fact that these homes have also cost taxpayers almost R1 billion as of 2023, according to the department property valuations.

The 97 state-owned homes for ministers and deputy ministers in South Africa are valued at a combined R967 million – meaning, on average, each ministerial home is valued at nearly R10 million.

However, some of these homes cost more than double the average value. Of the 58 homes in Cape Town, 26 are occupied by cabinet ministers, valued at R608 million – working out to an average value of R23.4 million per home.

This is a tough pill to swallow for many South Africans, considering that these perks are over and above the salaries ministers and deputy ministers draw, which is between R2 million and R2.4 million annually.

Adding salt to the wound is that energy regulator Nersa has approved an 18.65% increase in electricity prices for 2023 – and a 12.74% hike for next year.

According to Nersa, the decision was taken against the backdrop of challenging economic circumstances, including high-interest rates, low growth, high unemployment and load shedding.

In determining the hikes, it tried to balance these various factors as well as Eskom’s service needs, it said.

Read: How much it pays to be CEO at South Africa’s state-owned companies

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