The Second Special Appropriation Bill as presented to the Standing Committee on Appropriations by National Treasury’s Dr Mampho Modise was motivated as “…proposing additional urgent funding allocations of R32.850 billion – to address the impact of the unrest and COVID-19 pandemic”. This bill is a comical farce, despite what we presume to be the noble intentions of the government. Except, it is not funny at all.
Firstly, regarding the need for money to address the Covid-19 pandemic, government’s blunders are numerous, despite the admitted success in depressing some impacts of the pandemic. The PPE tender scandal, some ill-considered regulations, gigantic loans, the haphazard rollout of the vaccination programme and a failed health minister, amongst others, come to mind.
Secondly, regarding the euphemistically labelled “unrest”, it is to be squarely laid at the feet of the ruling party and its leadership. The African National Congress’ (ANC’s) much vaunted “self-correcting nature” is fast disappearing in its rear-view mirror. They have irresponsibly allowed their petty squabbles to escalate to epic proportions and President Ramaphosa seems to be unable to unite a divided party as each faction battles for the ANC’s soul.
Thirdly, the rampant institutionalised corruption and white-collar looting have wasted billions upon billions of rands of public funds. Years of Auditor-General’s annual reports tell the stories of wasteful and irregular expenditure at all three tiers of government. This must stop, and the fact that there are never effective consequences to combat either of these pervasive problems, creates a breeding ground for the continuation thereof.
Fourthly, it seems as if the step-provinces and areas within the more prosperous provinces – especially in the rural areas, townships and informal settlements where the backlogs and imbalances of the past are patently visible – will forever stand at the back of the queue when it comes to infrastructure development as government constantly “reprioritises” its budgets. In addition, government borrowed massive amounts of money to carry South Africa through the pandemic and yet here we stand at the door of another special appropriation bill. Plus, we still must service those debts.
Lastly, the United Democratic Movement (UDM) wonders at the lessons that are being taught in this instance. One lesson being, “Let’s protest, break and loot and get rewarded!”, which is reducing our people to mere voting cattle. Furthermore, in the past there have been numerous instances of civil unrest in various parts of the country. Businesses were looted unabated, and property destroyed. There had been no government assistance forthcoming at those times, so why now? Considering the “looting” of the monies earmarked for PPE, this seems like just another money-making opportunity for the comrades in corruption.
The ANC, its leaders, and its members, must stop deflecting reasonable criticism, as well as ignoring or outright denying the culpability of their party and some of its leaders in this quagmire they have dumped South Africa in.
We understand that the damage to infrastructure in the recent so-called unrest “… includes 161 malls, 11 warehouses, 8 factories, 200 shopping centres (approximately 3 000 stores were looted), 11 liquor outlets and 113 communication infrastructure. “
The ripple effect of this looting and damage to property will be felt for a long time, over and above those which South Africa is already suffering due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
That said, the UDM does however believe that the proposed spend of part of the R32,850 billion policing and defence is a sound idea. We have long argued that they have been underfunded, but a once-off spend is merely sticking a plaster on a gaping wound.
The allocations to SASRIA (South African Special Risk Insurance Association), the SRD grants (Social Relief of Distress grants) and the proposed support for businesses, also make sense in the current context and state of the nation.
Finally, the UDM believes it is unacceptable, in the instance of the “unrest”, that the entire nation must now foot the bill for what was arguably an avoidable disaster, which should have been proactively and speedily handled before the crisis unfolded. Government’s response time had been lackadaisical and now Peter is being robbed to pay Paul.
Issued by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement