Cape Town - The African National Congress initially opposed the proposal that retired MPs could get up to 24 free flights a year for 10 years, the office of the Chief Whip said on Tuesday.
“The ANC was initially opposed to the proposal due to the additional burden it would place on the public purse,” spokesman Moloto Mothapo said in a statement.
“Our decision to back the proposal was made on condition that Parliament must first subject it to the National Treasury, which should conduct a comprehensive assessment of its affordability and practicality.”
Mothapo said that it was “extremely shameful” that the chief sponsor of this proposal, the Democratic Alliance, was contradicting itself in the media in “a clumsy effort to score cheap political points”.
He said the office of the ANC chief Whip was “astounded” by the DA's “hypocrisy and flip-flopping” on the report of the Parliament oversight authority (POA) regarding the post-retirement travel benefits.
The report proposes certain air travel benefits for members of parliament for up to 10 years after retirement.
“Contrary to some DA MPs' grandstanding on this matter, this proposal was not the brainchild of the ANC,” he said.
“The facts, and the minutes of the POA meeting where this proposal was entertained, will show that it was in fact the DA - through its chief whip and deputy chief whip in 2007 - that proposed to the POA that such travel benefits be extended to ordinary MPs post their retirement.”
He said that after Douglas Gibson and Mike Ellis retired from Parliament, their successors Watty Watson and Sandy Kalyan continued to champion the proposal.
DA deputy chief whip Kalyan said the idea was to “level the playing field” between benefits granted to former MPs and those for former ministers and deputy ministers. Kalyan served on the task team that reviewed the travel policy.
The proposal is contained in the oversight authority's 2013 annual report, tabled recently.
On Tuesday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said Parliament would have to work within its budget and keep in mind the “modesty factor”.
Whatever the new arrangement was, it would have to be resolved after the May 7 general elections.
The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that Parliament's oversight authority recently recommended that retired MPs and their spouses get free plane tickets, at taxpayer's expense, based on how many years they had served as MPs.
An MP who had served one term (five years) would get eight economy-class tickets a year for 10 years, 16 economy-class tickets a year for 10 years for two terms, and 24 business-class tickets a year for 10 years after serving three terms.
The oversight authority is the highest policy-making authority for parliamentarians and includes National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu and National Council of Provinces chairman Mninwa Mahlangu.