Zuma's Cup guests cost taxpayers R17m
South Africa spent almost R17-million wining and dining two kings and 15 presidents - including dictator Teodoro Obiang-Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe - at the beginning and end of the soccer World Cup.
International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said yesterday the state spent R16589511 of taxpayers' money to entertain 17 heads of state - 16 from Africa - who were guests of President Jacob Zuma for the opening match and the World Cup final.
This would amount to average expenditure of R1-million on each head of state.
She was responding in writing to a parliamentary question from DA MP Kenneth Mubu.
According to a list provided by Nkoana-Mashabane's department, Mexican President Felipe Calderon was the only non-African head of state the government hosted during the tournament.
The money was used, inter alia, to pay for the accommodation, transport, security and entertainment of the presidents and kings.
They included Swazi King Mswati III, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, King Letsie III of Lesotho, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia andMahomed Abdelaziz of the Saharawi.
All the heads of state were accompanied by their spouses, with the exception of Francios Bozize of the Central African Republic, Joseph Kabila of the DRC, Dennis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of Congo and John Evans Atta-Mills of Ghana.
Nkoana-Mashabane said Zuma had invited the presidents and kings to ensure the benefits of hosting the World Cup were shared with the rest of the continent.
"It was South Africa's commitment to ensure that the 2010 Fifa World Cup is regarded as an African World Cup and the benefits that come with hosting this prestigious event are shared with the rest of Africa.
"The African Union gave its full support to South Africa hosting the event, hence President Zuma invited the African heads of state and government to attend the opening and closing ceremonies of the event," she said.
However, the DA's Mubu described the money spent to entertain the heads of state as exorbitant.
"We think R16.5-million was excessive. These were heads of state - it is not as if they were indigent and could not afford to pay for their own accommodation and entertainment," he said.
Just as Zuma would pay for his own expenses during this week's trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, leaders who attended the World Cup should have picked up their own tabs, Mubu said.
Mubu said it was different when South Africa invited a leader for a state visit, in which case the government, as host, would routinely pay all expenses.
"This was not a case of 26 simultaneous state visits, this was a sports event," he said.
A senior government official told The Times the heads of state stayed in hotels, not in government accommodation.
Reports at the time said 16 heads of state had attended the opening game in Johannesburg.
The highway linking Pretoria and Johannesburg was largely closed off to ensure that the VIPs could make the trip easily, while other spectators were urged to use specially provided public transport and trains.
Zuma disclosed to parliament during the presidential budget debate last year that he had issued an invitation to all 53 African heads of state to attend the opening and closing games.
Among those he invited was Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, but this was complicated by the standing warrant for his arrest issued by the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses in that country.
The warrant would have compelled local authorities to arrest Al-Bashir once he entered South Africa.
Under pressure to withdraw the invitation to Al-Bashir, Zuma told MPs last year that South Africa would have to act if the Sudanese president arrived for the tournament.
Al-Bashir did not attend.