Last Sunday the City Press front page lead was headlined SABC’s Hlaudi ‘guilty’ – Public Protector slams widespread abuse of power at public broadcaster. Her report, titled ‘The Blame Game’ vindicated the background chronology, The SABC’s toxic cocktail: Mokhobo, Motsoeneng and Molefe I wrote for this website in January.
The South African public is confronted almost hourly by new accounts of ANC politicians living high on the hog, snouts deep in the trough. This is coupled, simultaneously, with the gut-wrenching accounts of the poverty both physical – the collapse of the Eastern Cape health system – and intellectual – the collapse of the Eastern Cape education system and the failure to deliver school books in Limpopo – which this corruption causes. As a consequence, we tend to forget the ever-evolving details of this incessant plunder while living constantly with its tragic consequences.
This background chronology details the excesses of three successive Jacob Zuma-appointed ministers of communication with specific reference to the sybaritic lifestyle they led at an incalculable cost to us all.
What is interesting is to compare the communications ministers in the Mbeki and Zuma eras.
Mbeki had one, Ivy Matsepe Casaburri, while Zuma is already on his fourth. While Matsepe Casaburri was not known for profligate living at the expense of the taxpayer, the excesses of three of her successors became increasingly nauseating.
Two quotes sum up the public outrage and the ANC’s resulting spin – blame the media – about the epicurean excess of the first communications minister in the Jacob Zuma era, Siphiwe ‘The Minister of Luxury’ Nyanda.
While dining alone during his stay at the five-star Mount Nelson hotel in September last year, Nyanda did not stint on life’s finer pleasures, invoices reveal. The minister’s meal on September 8 last year at the hotel’s acclaimed Cape Colony Restaurant started with oysters, followed by a main course of springbok loin and was washed down with a bottle of mineral water and two glasses of Bordeaux-style red Meerlust Rubicon. The wine cost R330 and the meal for one took the bill to R700, tip included
High flying Minister was not alone – Mail & Guardian 16/7/2010
“This kind of journalism is not only mischievous but disingenuous due to failure to properly inform the South African society about laws governing accommodation of public representatives.
“No luxury can be derived in staying and working from a hotel environment where you have no total privacy than staying in a proper home.
“The ANC appeals to members of the media to educate themselves about legislation governing accommodation of public representatives before jumping into dangerous conclusions. This unbalanced and sensational reporting without facts can only serve to give journalism a bad name, an issue the ANC will certainly take up with the Press Ombudsman and other authorities.” – ANC condemns ‘minister in luxury hotel’ reports. Statement issued by Jackson Mthembu, African National Congress national spokesperson, 18 July 2010
Nyanda was appointed in May 2009. This was hardly surprising as he was an important ally of Jacob Zuma in the war of attrition with Thabo Mbeki and he wrote an article for the Sunday Times accusing the media of being part of the vendetta against Zuma.
He served a fervent and committed apprenticeship in preparation for his profligate role as communications minister that was eventually to see him achieving notoriety and being moved sideways to a sinecure infinitely more suited to his talents.
It was while he was defence minister that he became implicated in an Arms Deal scam. He received, as the Sunday Times revealed, a massively discounted Mercedes Benz from EADS in the same racket that saw Tony Yengeni jailed.
Defence Force chief General Siphiwe Nyanda admitted late this week that he got a R500 000 Mercedes-Benz at a massively reduced price from a company that will rake in millions from South Africa’s controversial arms deal.
Nyanda got his new silver S320 just after it was ordered by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company as a ‘private staff’ car.
EADS is the same company that ordered the luxury green 4×4 Mercedes ML320 and silver Mercedes C180 saloon that ended up in the hands of ANC Chief Whip Tony Yengeni and his wife Lumka.
Documents in the possession of the Sunday Times reveal that a Mercedes S320 was ordered as a private EADS staff car for “Chief of Defence, Gen Nyanda”.
The car, boasting heated grey leather seats that massage the driver’s back on long journeys, was registered at the traffic department in Nyanda’s name on January 8. It was never registered in the name of EADS.
Pimping his ride
Having proved his petrolhead credentials and an innate talent for pimping his ride Nyanda was ready (ahem) to shift gear and his encore, when he was appointed communications minister was to get not just a single but dual million-rand cars fitted with every available option – all at the expense of the tax payer and without spending a cent of his own money.
The Democratic Alliance expressed the country’s outrage in a press release:
A reply to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question has revealed that the Department of Communications has purchased for the new Minister of Communications two new vehicles (both BMW 750i) to the value to R1 135 000 each, or a combined total of R2 270 000; one for Pretoria and one for Cape Town. More disturbingly, the reply reveals that the department spent R136 000 on extras for one of the vehicles including features like:
· Rear seat entertainment at a cost of R23 000
· An innovations package (including things like ambient interior lighting and a rear view camera) at a cost of R35 000; and
· Gross gloss satin chrome finish at a cost of R5 600
The second car also had a series of additional extras, but only to the cost of R12 200, including:
· A sports leather steering wheel at a cost of R2 300; and
· A rear view camera at a cost of R5 000
In other words, not only did the department spend R2.2 million on new, top of the range cars, it spent an additional R150 000 on a series of features which can only be described as frivolous and a massive waste of public money.
But it was not just in relation to outrageously expensive motor cars, equipped with every possible option, that Nyanda showed his and the ANC’s contempt for the poorest of the poor, it was also where he chose to stay when he was in Cape Town – and the Mail & Guardian was there to reveal the details to a public increasingly aghast at the depraved depths to which the party of Nelson Mandela was descending.
The newspaper called him ‘the Minister of luxury’ and the protests of the ANC spokesman, the bibulous Jackson Mthembu, only increased the sense of outrage, not least because other ministers such as Tina Joemat Pettersson and the late Sicelo Shiceka were obviously trying to outdo him when it came to extravagant living at the expense of the tax-paying public – all to the detriment of service delivery.
Eventually the stench around Nyanda, his lavish lifestyle and his dubious tenders became so nauseating, as his Wikipedia entry indicates, that even the ANC blanched and in October 2010 he was made a special adviser to President Jacob Zuma. His ability to acquire a luxury, multi-million rand home at virtually no cost to himself will no doubt stand him in good stead as a consultant on Nkandla, the President’s private residence (which we are not supposed to photograph).
Next up was the man the Sunday Times was to give the nickname of ‘Room Service’. On 21 November 2010 the newspaper revealed that the late Roy Padayachie had been assiduously training for his own Gaderene rush at the trough for several years before he succeeded the ‘minister of luxury’.
As the relevant article is only available online to Sunday Times subscribers, I have transcribed it.
Room Service Roy’s suite life at top hotel by Sibusiso Ngalwa
“Newly appointed Minister of Communications Roy Padayachie lived in a five-star hotel several days a week for four years at a cost of around R5000 a night – a few hundred metres from his official residence, which he deemed not good enough.
“Padayachie cost taxpayers an estimated R2-million while living it up at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria. That excludes his room service bill.
“He lived in the Sheraton between 2004 and 2008 when he was deputy to late minister of communications Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri .
“He occupied the exclusive Club Floor suites, for which the department was billed at a government rate of between R5000 and R6000 a night – despite being given a house in the ministerial Bryntirion Estate, near the Union Buildings.
“A government official privy to Padayachie’s travels said he would spend up to four days a week in Pretoria when parliament was in recess.
“The Sunday Times has estimated that if Padayachie spent a minimum of two nights a week at the hotel over a four-year period, his bill could have been as high as R2.3-million.
“This week, he would not answer specific questions about how many days he had stayed at the hotel and what it had cost.
“He was promoted to minister of communications in President Jacob Zuma’s recent cabinet reshuffle. He succeeded Siphiwe Nyanda, who was axed after his controversial one-year stay in luxury Cape Town hotels that cost taxpayers R500 000.
“In a written reply to questions by the Sunday Times, Padayachie admitted that he had lived in the Sheraton, saying it was “unavoidable and not of my own doing”.
“He said the Department of Public Works was to blame, as it did not have his ministerial home ready for him to move into.
“He did not respond to a claim made by one official that he had refused to take occupation of the house because he was unhappy with the furniture that public works had bought for the house.
“He said the house had been allocated to him sometime in 2005, but had structural defects, which delayed his occupation.
“However, in his response, he admitted that former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka had lived there in 2008 while her official residence, OR Tambo House, was being renovated.
“Mlambo-Ngcuka is studying overseas and did not reply to questions at the time of going to press.
“However, her office confirmed that she had lived in the house for a “few months”.
Said Padayachie: “When the residence was ready for occupation, the house was then re-allocated to … Mlambo-Ngcuka, who needed alternative accommodation while her official residence was undergoing renovations.”
“The Sunday Times can also reveal that Padayachie regularly rented a top-of-the-range E-class Mercedes-Benz during his weekend and official trips to his home town of Durban.
“The car costs about R3000 a day to rent.
“At one point, the department splashed out R75000 over a three-week period.
“Padayachie, however, said the car was hired only for “official engagements” and that “it is mandatory for (me) to be accompanied by VIP close protectors, who drive and escort (me)”.
“He said he was satisfied that his expenditure during his time as deputy minister was in line with the regulations stipulated in the ministerial handbook and that he had not breached the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
“The former director-general in the department, Lyndall Shope-Mafole, said she was aware of Padayachie’s hotel stay, adding that issues of accommodation for ministers were dealt with by the Department of Public Works.
“The point I’m making is that this is not our call … whether he is staying in a hotel or a house, it is not one of the issues that the DG of a department would actually be responsible for.”
The Sheraton’s marketing manager, Willie Williams, refused to discuss Padayachie’s stay, saying that it was a private matter.
In August this year Lindiwe Sisulu, in answering a question from the DA, told Parliament that Padayachie had splurged R373 000 in four months on hiring luxury vehicles despite having a state-supplied official vehicle at his disposal.
Middle finger salute
And then there’s our very own, let’s give a big hand to, the inimitable ….
She’s a rich girl
She don’t try to hide it
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes
… with thanks to Paul Simon … Dina … Pule!
Her astonishing effrontery, her relentless middle finger salute to the country’s increasingly cash-strapped electorate, her hedonistic cavorting at tax payer’s expense in the world’s finest hotels from Prague to New York, her contempt for Parliament, her Christian Louboutin shoes, her brazen corruption, are the stuff of recent memory and legend and the country’s disillusionment in the ANC’s darling, the ‘Ubuntu Queen’, the investigative reporter’s delight, was summed up by Ben Turok.
17 October 2013 – Former communications minister, Dina Pule fails to declare her financial and business interests to parliament’s joint ethics committee by the stipulated deadline. Ben Turok, co-chairman of the ethics committee, questioned whether Pule would make an honest declaration this time around.
“The issue for us is: is she going to comply honestly,” said Turok. “So whether it’s a week later or a week earlier is of little interest. What interests me is, is she going to tell us the truth and that’s where the focus should be.”
The portents for neutral and objective news coverage by the SABC in the countdown to next year’s elections are not good but what was bizarre was that a recent SABC3 7pm television news bulletin carried as one of its top national stories the fact that acting COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng attended a meeting with staff at the Corporation’s regional office in Cape Town!
According to last Sunday’s City Press article the Public Protector’s report on her investigation of the Dina Pule/ICT Indaba scandal is scheduled for release today.
IMAGE: Christian Louboutin shoes / Creative Commons