Free electricity and no load shedding for South Africa’s millionaire ministers: report

 ·9 Oct 2022

South Africa’s ministers and deputy ministers – who draw a salary of between R2 million and R2.5 million a year – do not have to pay for water and electricity thanks to changes to the ministerial handbook earlier this year.

And while the rest of the country sat in the dark for weeks due to load shedding, including hospitals, schools and other critical services, the same ministers have the luxury of uninterrupted power in their private residences in Pretoria, the City Press reports.

The paper pointed to changes made to the ministerial handbook in May 2022, which removed the R5,000 cap on municipal utilities covered by the government. Previously, ministers were only exempt from paying their bills so long as they remained below this amount.

However, the new handbook reads:

“The department responsible for public works shall be responsible for the costs associated with the provision of water and electricity to official residences”.

The previous version stated:

“The department responsible for public works shall be responsible for the costs associated with the provision of water and electricity to a state-owned residence, provided that such cost is limited to R5,000 per month per state-owned residence.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed off on these changes in May, which also included a R100,000 bump in the limit for ministers to purchase luxury cars. Ministers and their deputies can now spend up to R800,000 for their vehicles.

As per the handbook, the Department of Public Works pays for ministers’ utilities – so taxpayers foot the bill for these privileges and luxuries.

According to the City Press, cabinet members are also exempt from load shedding as their private residences in Pretoria are on the same grid as the union buildings, which cannot be powered down due to its status as a national key point.

For ministers who do not reside in load-shedding-free areas, the department will also fund generators, the paper said.

Power utility Eskom suspended load shedding on Saturday after more than a month of rolling blackouts.

Hospitals and other critical care centres made desperate appeals to the government to exempt healthcare facilities from load shedding as power outages threatened the most vulnerable patients, including babies in incubation units and patients in ICU.

The Department of Health finally exempted some hospitals across the country, with promises of more over time.

The education sector also sounded alarms over the impact of load shedding, with schools reporting major disruptions to lessons and expressing concern over matric prelims and exams.

Economists and analysts have put the daily cost of load shedding anywhere between R250 million to R1 billion and have already revised GDP growth projections for the third quarter of this year downward.

Load shedding was a key contributor to the decline in GDP in the second quarter. And as South Africans have to contend with the stress of more load shedding, massive price hikes on the horizon and a deepening cost of living crisis, the all-you-can-eat-buffet for the ministers in charge continues unabated.

Read: Eskom to suspend load shedding

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