Taxes rise but MPs still sipping pretty

25 February 2018 - 00:00 By THABO MOKONE
Parliamentarians enjoy food and drinks at far lower prices than in the restaurants frequented by the average taxpayer.
Parliamentarians enjoy food and drinks at far lower prices than in the restaurants frequented by the average taxpayer.
Image: iStock/Jonathan Austin Daniels

While the indebted taxpayer will pay about R42 for a shot of Johnnie Walker Black at the local bar - and more, with a sin tax hike of 6% to 10% - the lawmakers who endorsed Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba's "tough budget" shell out a mere R10 to enjoy the same drink - thanks to the taxpayer.

The Sunday Times this weeks conducted an assessment of the peripheral benefits enjoyed by South Africa's ministers, deputy ministers and parliamentarians, who earn huge salaries of between R1-million and R2.4-million a year.

In addition to the free accommodation and flights enjoyed by politicians, parliamentary restaurants and bars, which are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, sell food and drinks to public representatives for next to nothing.

Gigaba delivered a budget on Wednesday in which VAT increased for the first time since 1993, and the fuel levy was also hiked. This will directly affect the cost of food and transport, and have a ripple effect on other purchases too.

Parliamentarians enjoy food and drinks at far lower prices than in the restaurants frequented by the average taxpayer. Only MPs may purchase at the restaurants; ordinary citizens can be served only if they are guests of an MP.

At parliament's Marks Building restaurant, which was used by Gigaba to host a post-budget - and alcohol-free - cocktail party on Wednesday, MPs can have a three-course lunch at the giveaway price of R83.

A similar meal at the average restaurant in Cape Town costs around R400.

in numbers

• R1m-R2.4m: this is the salary range for MPs, deputy ministers and ministers

• R10: the amount MPs pay for a single tot of Johnnie Walker Black as opposed to the average price of R42 one would pay in a bar

• R83: the price of a three-course meal for MPs

As if that's not enough, our MPs enjoy the finest Scotch in the parliamentary bars for a fraction of what ordinary people pay at their drinking holes.

After a long day of debates and meetings, an MP can relax with a single malt 15-year-old Scotch at one of the three parliamentary bars for as little as R35 - a drink that sells for R80 at the bars ordinary South Africans go to.

If MPs opt for popular blended whisky Johnnie Walker Black, it will cost them R10 a shot at parliament - whereas a taxpayer has to fork out at least R42 for a shot.

A can of a local beer that sells for around R30 in pubs goes for half that price at the parliamentary bars.

A staff member who asked not to be named said: "It's nice for these guys, these are some of their perks, what can you say?

"It's a pity staff can enjoy the discounted alcohol only when they are in the company of an MP on their invite.

"This is why they are always willing to pay if you join them, because parliament sells them these things basically at cost price."


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