SAfrica has world’s largest cabinet

With 68 Ministers and Deputies, SA has world’s largest, most expensive cabinet

2010-11-06  – South Africa’s recently enlarged cabinet is among the world’s largest in relation to the size of its population. It now has 68 Ministers and Deputies for 47-million residents – compared to the USA’s 15 Ministers for 300-million people or Nigeria’s 38 Ministers for 150-million people…

Each Cabinet Minister earns at least R1-million annually, the deputies about R800,000 a year… not including the many luxury perks of the office, such as free hotel accommodation, free travel and an army of domestic staffers and cops to look after them… and it also costs taxpayers at least R1,07-billion a year more to protect them all…

These interesting facts were pointed out by a former cabinet-member under the Thabo Mbeki regime,  breakaway COPE party leader Mosiuoa Lekota.  He dropped the comment in the news media after last week’s infamous “Sunday of the Long Knives” when pres Jacob Zuma cleaned out many ex-Mbeki-cabinet members and replaced them with i.a. three ex-presidents of the black-racist, reactionary ANC youth league.  Besides firing disastrously poor Ministers and replacing them with these black reactionaries from the youth league however, he also controversially fired the white Mrs Barbara Hogan, the efficient and hard-working Minister of Public Enterprises. Hogan also quit her job as MP.

‘Living here is hell’

The Sunday Times of Johannesburg journalist Prega Govender this week also interviewed homeowners near the historic Bryntyrian government complex – where many of these pampered, well-paid ANC-Cabinet Members live their luxurious lifestyles behind high-security fences. The magnificent and historic complex with its stately buildings dates from 1903 – established just after the British overthrow of the Boer Republics.

Govender writes: “Homeowners say being neighbours of the president is causing problems – in fact homeowners are fuming over the Cabinet ministers’ disregard for their neighbours’ rights as ordinary citizens… Some neighbours even face expropriation of their valuable family homes; and neighbours are constantly disturbed by ‘noisy policemen who behave like hooligans while manning the security gates.’

  • R1,07-billion budget for VIP protection, security guards: Yet despite all this high-security hoopla costing the taxpayer some R1-bn in the last financial year, there have been more than a dozen security breaches at the Cabinet’s Bryntirion Estate in Pretoria…  The figures are contained in the SAPS ‘s 2009/10 annual report. In one case at Bryntirion, floodlights were stolen from President Jacob Zuma’s presidential guesthouse ‘sometime between April and June 2009’. There also were housebreaking and theft of two computers a keyboard two monitors and copper cables. Eighteen people were arrested, with nine of the cases having been finalised. Bryntirion Estate, a national key point, was established in 1903 just after the fall of the Boer Republic. In the current financial year a total of R1.07bn has been budgeted for VIP protection and security guards.

Residents of Arcadia and Colbyn suburbs, whose homes border Bryntirion Estate – the official residence of President Jacob Zuma and most of his huge number of Cabinet ministers and Deputy-Ministers – raised some of the thorny issues that have soured relations in recent months include:

  • The erection of an “unsightly” gate at the estate on Eastwood Street, above Government Avenue, without consulting residents;
  • The removal of invaluable granite kerbstones from the portion of the street where the new entrance was constructed;
  • Rowdy policemen manning the gate and constant hooting by motorists at all hours while waiting to enter the estate; and
  • The lengthy delay by the Department of Public Works in building firebreaks on the grassy ridges of the estate bordering private homes in Colbyn.

Rashid Aboobaker, whose property is directly adjacent to the main entrance, is also fighting desperately to save his family home after it was expropriated in 2008 over security concerns – with the government claiming in court documents that the beautiful, historic home has to be expropriated ‘in the national interest’. Karina van der Westhuizen and her husband, Corrie, whose R3.5-million home in Eastwood Street is situated directly opposite the new gate, are fighting for its removal. The couple and their two children, who have been living in the area for more than 16 years, have been driven up the wall by the noisy policemen manning the gate which is about 50 metres away from the house of Reserve Bank Governor, Gill Marcus.

  • Their neighbours from hell include one guard who is “particularly loud-mouthed and shouts at the top of his voice from the moment he comes on duty until he leaves”.

In a lengthy letter forwarded to the Arcadia Ratepayers and Residents’ Association, Van der Westhuizen wrote: “They [the policemen] are very rowdy and undisciplined. They often entertain guests and use the entrance as a picnic spot. Their latest toy is a golf cart which gives them great joy when they drive it around in circles.”

Van der Westhuizen, a senior lecturer in private law at the University of South Africa, said they have not had a decent night’s sleep because the bright, security lights from across the road shine directly into their bedroom at night. “Members of government should set an example. They are not above the law.”

Her neighbour Willem Steenkamp, who owns a guesthouse, said the policemen “behave like hooligans”. “I shout at them a lot. It’s quiet for two minutes then it starts again.” Linda Tyrrell, chairman of the Arcadia Ratepayers and Residents’ Association, complained in a letter to Pretoria/Tshwane municipality that “the aesthetic appearance of this old world area has been negatively impacted by this unsightly development”. The removal of the granite kerbstones that were replaced by hideous cement is totally out of character with the ambience of this unique area,” she wrote. She said trees were cut down to erect the gate without consideration given to the birdlife and wildlife, including the porcupines and bush babies living in the area.

“The residents have as much rights as the residents and employees of Bryntirion Estate. We are neighbours. We need to treat each other with respect but this is not happening.”

At a street market organised by the ratepayers’ association last Saturday on Government Avenue to foster “a sense of neighbourliness”, only Marcus and Mo Shaik – who heads the SA Secret Service —  and his wife, Erin, were spotted. “We would have expected President Jacob Zuma to have been there. He’s part of our community,” said ward councillor Advocate Kate Prinsloo.

Meanwhile, Aboobaker this week filed an application for leave to appeal after failing in his bid to get the Pretoria High Court to set aside a decision by Public Works to expropriate his property. After expropriating it in January 2008, the department offered Aboobaker, who is director of Erf 16 Bryntirion (Pty) Limited, which owns the property, compensation of R7.6-million, although there was an existing bond of R20-million. The house, bought in 1997, which, according to court records, “is of great monumental and sentimental value”, has been extensively renovated and features baroque and Victorian styles.

About Adriana Stuijt
Retired South African-Dutch journalist formerly Sunday Times Johannesburg

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