Budget Vote Debate- Extended Public Committee
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party
Honourable Speaker; Your Excellency the President; Honourable Members –
I doubt that today we will hear much about this budget. That debate is likely to take a back seat to accusations and complaints against the President himself. Despite agreeing with my colleagues in the opposition, I was not raised to say things like “Zuma must voetsek”. We as the IFP believe in restoring dignity and honest debate to this House and to politics. Thus we will speak today about the budget.
Honourable Speaker, failed service delivery has ignited protest across our country, as unfulfilled promises demand answers. It is surprising then that, when it comes to issues of service delivery, the President conducts only 5 visits per year across South Africa. And he does so at a cost of R38,2 million in travel, subsistence and communication services.
This speaks volumes about the priorities and costs of the Presidency.
But the President cannot answer on this budget. That responsibility lies with the accounting officer and officials in his Department, who should be interrogated over this budget in a portfolio committee, as happens with every other Government Department. So why not the Presidency?
Year after year the IFP asks this same question. Now it is for the Honourable Speaker and the Rules Committee to take it further.
Nevertheless, even without full insight into this budget, obvious issues must be raised.
The turnaround strategy at the South African Post Office saw well over 5000 employees retrenched. For overseeing that strategy, technical officials have been seconded to the Presidency. One wonders whether they could not oversee a strategy in the Presidency to reduce expenditure on employee compensation, as this alone accounts for 63,8% of the budget.
Despite Cabinet recommending reductions in the budget for compensating employees, spending is set to increase at an average annual rate of 8%. Rather than reducing staff, which is the logical way to reduce expenditure on staff, the Presidency is increasing the number of personnel by 35 posts.
There is a clear contradiction between what Cabinet seeks to achieve, and what is being done. It is simply not sustainable to keep growing the number of staff and growing the budget for staff compensation at a rate that outstrips inflation.
Apparently the Presidency intends to reprioritise internally and develop a plan to stay within budget. But in the meantime, it keeps going in the wrong direction.
I am reminded of the IFP’s warnings to Government in 2011 that within the next five years National Debt would grow to R1,5 trillion. We were mocked for that prediction. Yet today National Debt exceeds R2 trillion. The IFP warned that we cannot keep borrowing with no real plan of how we will pay it back.
This Government seems to believe that so long as it intends to find a solution sometime in the future, it is feasible to keep moving in the wrong direction now. Is it not said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions?
The biggest budgetary increase in the Presidency is in Executive Support, and the reason put forward is that there will be more Cabinet meetings in a non-election year. As the budget puts it, “the 2014 elections interrupted the normal schedule of meetings”. This is a concerning statement, for it suggests that the running of the country takes a back seat to campaigning for votes.
Unfortunately, the line between the President’s roles as our Head of State and a political leader is often transgressed.
Within the Presidency, R9,1 million will go into leading the agenda on nation building and social cohesion. How much of this will be undone by irresponsible political statements? Social cohesion was set back significantly when the President said that black South Africans must vote for a black person, lest the whites take back the country and keep blacks in poverty.
When the President speaks, he should do so as the President of all South Africa, not just of the ANC.
The IFP accepts this budget, but we have strong reservations over the leadership it supports.
IFP Media, Parliament