Bye bye blue-lights, BMWs and bodyguards

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ANC in Parliament announced on Friday that Lulu Xingwana (women, children and people with disabilities), Sbu Ndebele (correctional services), pictured below, as well as former deputy minister of social development Maria Ntuli had resigned their seats in Parliament. Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams

Cape Town - Calculators have been working overtime in Parliament this week as ministers left out of President Jacob Zuma’s new cabinet weighed up their options.

Following shortly after the resignations of ex-Speaker Max Sisulu and former tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the ANC in Parliament announced on Friday that S’bu Ndebele (correctional services) and Lulu Xingwana (women, children and people with disabilities), as well as former deputy minister of social development Maria Ntuli had also resigned their seats in Parliament.

Gone are the blue lights, the bodyguards and the gleaming black Beemers – all the trappings of office a cabinet minister enjoys. But they will hardly be slumming it from now on.

The former ministers will remain high-flyers – with 48 free business-class flights a year (36 for deputies).

According to the ministerial handbook approved by the cabinet in 2007, ex-ministers’ spouses are entitled to 24 such flights a year.

The bad news on this front is that the handbook is being reviewed, with a revised version expected to be finalised any day now, and some of the cuts to the perks of office made by then finance minister Pravin Gordhan last October may filter through to the benefits due to former ministers.

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Paul Mashatile (arts and culture), Yunus Carrim (communications), Ben Martins (energy) and Connie September (human settlements) are the only remaining ex-ministers who have not resigned as MPs.

The others appear to have done their sums. That’s because a fat lump-sum payout is due, according to the rules of the Political Office Bearers Pension Fund, to qualifying former ministers.

This “gratuity”, as well as their pension payout, is calculated according to a complex formula, but is greater for those who resign after having served in the executive instead of continuing as ordinary MPs.

The gratuity is due only to those who have served more than one term of office, but this can include all the roles they may have played before becoming a minister. They would also receive it only if they resign their seats in Parliament.

Under the rules of the fund, Van Schalkwyk qualifies for a “loss of office gratuity”, on top of his pension payout, of four months’ salary for every five years of service.

As he has served as an MP, Western Cape premier and minister since 1994, when the fund was established, Van Schalkwyk should qualify for the equivalent of 16 months’ salary. Even better, this is calculated on the salary he received at the time of leaving office, which, according to the proclamation confirming increases this year, would have been R2.1 million a year for a minister, or R175 550 a month.

If Van Schalkwyk received this full payout, it would amount to about R2.8m on top of his pension payout, also linked to his minister’s salary – compared to the roughly R1.56m (at the current annual salary of R933 852) he would have received if he’d stayed on as an MP for another five years.

ANC caucus spokesman Moloto Mothapo said on Friday that the situation required attention as it deprived Parliament of institutional memory, experience and skills.

Some axed ministers may actually relish a return to the simpler things in life.

Martins, for example, posted a picture of himself at the wheel of his very basic private car and tweeted: “My 1995 vw 1.3 chico wich I have used in cpt since I became a parliamentarian in 1994 was equal 2 the task 2day!”

He did seem a little wistful about the loss of his bodyguards, however, tweeting later: “vip protection officers ndala dan cobie and jaco thx 4 mutual respect & shadowing me but i still don’t know what ur little blac note bks know!”

Neither do we.

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