It’s known to us all that an Asian Country has overtime become the favorite buddy of our present Government. China is like that one friend who meets the needs of all South Africa’s varying moods. The bond became worrisome when China became the mentoring friend that accepted to engage the South African government officials, business leaders and public service managers on a training and skills development program at Chinese Academy of Governance.
We panicked when it became official that the school curriculum in South Africa will officially include the Chinese language of Mandarin come 2016, and with the recent economic crisis in China, we were all deeply troubled as we question the rationale of partnering with a nation struggling to manage its unstable economy. And now, we might just have to worry about how much we’re spending for the many, and frequent journeys our officials make to China.
In view of the above sentiment, the Communications Minister Faith Muthambi told us our worries are baseless for according to her, “through our bilateral relations with China, we’ve achieved a lot in terms of improving the lives of our people”. Regardless of the popular public opinion contradicting her claims of life improvement, she opined that the South African media are falling short of their duty in sharing the success stories of the good achievements and even urged them to report “stories that will promote our mutual understanding and friendship and stories that deepen our cooperation.”
Wither-ward, David Shapiro, the director and deputy chairman at Sasfin Securities believes China is South Africa’s favorite “because they tolerate us. They tolerate our incompetence, they tolerate our corruption and our bad governance…You would never find Western Europe and the United States tolerating that, that is why we are looking towards the East.”
In the face of the disagreements, we can however all agree that China is the favorite destination of our government officials. Based on the answers received on parliamentary questions asked by Democratic Alliance MPs about trips to China, ten (10) ministers, four (4) deputy ministers and one hundred and fifteen (115) government officials reportedly visited China. And the figures are expected to increase as some of the ministers are yet to answer the parliamentary questions.
As estimated, not less than R7.45 million was spent on 40 trips to China in the 2014-2015 financial year. For instance, the department of land reform and rural development led by Gugile Nkwinti has spent an amount estimated above R4 million on four trips to China. According to Nkwinti, the essence of the visits were “to share experiences and international best practice in the functional areas of land reform and rural development, as well as skills development for youth in business.” A breakdown of the visits and cost as found in News24 are presented below.
- It cost taxpayers R263 089 when Gugile Nkwinti journeyed to China from October 27 to 1st November 2014.
- Taxpayers dished out R1 109 570 to sponsor 42 people among them, 10 officials to China from October 24 to 2nd November 2014.
- From March 22 to 6th of April 2014, taxpayers sponsored 52 people consisting of only 11 officials to China with R1 356 849.
- And from August 22 to September 7 2014, taxpayers sponsored another 42 people consisting of 11 officials to China with R1 289 660.
Meanwhile, there are reasons to believe some ministers are not willing to reveal the amount spent while visiting China. The Energy Minister Tina Joemat Pettersson responded that “the details will be specified as soon as the information is available,” Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant only reported that her deputy, Phathekile Holomisa, and eight officials had visited China ignoring the cost, and the Ministry of public service and administration simply offering that the cost of its travels to China would be provided in its annual report.
In all, 27% of the Cabinet have visited China. With their visits and the taxpayers money spent in order to sponsor such visits, South Africans should be impatient to witness the futility of the mass journey to China. Otherwise, we can as well conclude that taxpayers have spent over R7.45 million to pay for the wines our government officials drank in China.