PREMIUM FREE TRIAL

Exposing the full value of certain overseas junkets by officials and MP’s – Ed Herbst

Here’s a refreshing tonic which provides a nice palate cleanser anywhere you choose to insert it in your daily four-course meal of dysfunction, irregularity, corruption and incompetence served up by our media. Correction; by our more competent media. In other words, by those journalists who still believe that holding politicians and officials to account is a vital part, not only of their job, but of democracy itself. If any of these daily newsy leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, don’t blame the waiters; demand to see the chef. Ed Herbst belongs to this cadre of waiter/journalists and his somewhat satirical description of senior parliamentary officials and MP’s taking regular jaunts around the world, eating in expensive restaurants and being chauffeured in luxury sedans is a tasty break from the more regular and predictable esurience. Sometimes it pays to check out the back menus – they give an indication of how the current offerings have evolved. Which is exactly what Herbst does; by reviewing the astonishingly cavalier use of tax-payers’ money by officials and MP’s to gallivant around the world under the thin premise of it somehow furthering their work – which it patently does not in the cases cited. That they are hardly taken by the urge to account for, or even excuse their behaviour is patently obvious in the former ANC Speaker in the Western Cape legislature, Shaun Byneveldt’s response to a detailed list of newspaper questions. This offering is a palate cleanser – not because it’s any more honest or less abusive than the usual four course fare – but because it’s slightly different – for once. – Chris Bateman

By Ed Herbst*

Six months later, it remains unclear whether Parliament benefited from the junket. There has been no sign of any report compiled from the study visit. – Andisiwe Makinana City Press  24/4/2016

Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana spent a whopping R44,320 on being chauffeur-driven in a Mercedes-Benz on one of his overseas trips. – Andisiwe Makinana City Press  18/12/2016

The headline on Marianne Merten’s Daily Maverick article of 10 March read:

Parliament: The world’s still a much-travelled oyster for Secretary Mgidlana

Veteran journalist Ed Herbst

And the intro provided further edification: Pursuing Parliament’s strategic objectives has taken Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana around the world – most recently to the United States, this week. From London, Edinburgh, Budapest, Geneva and, it is understood, also destinations on the African continent, Mgidlana has travelled extensively since taking up his post as the national legislature’s accounting officer, or top administrator, on December 1, 2014.

This further confirms some startling news which I heard recently  – and remember, you are reading it here first because this is a world scoop which will see me nominated for a Nobel Prize along with Vukani Mde whose shattering discovery of the ‘White Internet’ has catapulted him straight into the Stephen Hawking stratosphere.

I can exclusively reveal that, after two decades of dedicated practise and innumerable wet runs, rehearsals and try-outs, the leading bottom feeders in the ANC’s Tsunami of Sleaze have learned to breathe through their ears.

This enables them to keep their snouts permanently immersed in the Gravy 24/7.

To help you recover your composure after this startling revelation I would like to relate my experience of the overseas travel exploits of one of the leading ANC exponents of this hedonistic and epicurean art which deserves its own chapter in the Domesday Book of Snouting.

I will preface my account by pointing out that Mgidlana is hardly alone – as an ANC MP of refined and cultured tastes – in appreciating the finer things in life which your taxes and mine can provide him. These include staying in the finest hotels and pimping to the max their tax-payer funded rides which, strangely enough, always turn out to be the most colonial of White Minority Capital marques like Mercs, BMWs and Porsches.

Supporters of South African President Jacob Zuma’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) cheer at a rally to launch the ANC’s local government election manifesto in Port Elizabeth, April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Million-rand BMW

The hyperlink in the previous paragraph refers to a million rand BMW purchased with your money and mine by Faith Muthambi and, as I pointed out in that article:

In August last year she splurged more than half a million rand on a nine-day jolly in the USA which saw her attend a luxury goods show and a folk art festival – neither of which have even the most remote connection to her portfolio and neither of which benefited a nation and its citizens in any way.

My particular exposure to the overseas travel splurges by the ANC’s deployed parasites occurred in September 2008 when I phoned a Democratic Alliance MEC in the Western Cape provincial legislature about an environmental concern.

As I was about to ring off he suddenly blurted, “Ed, can you help us?” and he then related a typically-sordid ANC-extraction tale.

He said that his party was at its wit’s end about the conduct of the ANC’s speaker in the provincial parliament, Shaun Byneveldt who was often away from work on overseas trips. Byneveldt bragged repeatedly and openly about having visited 51 countries in four years, flying business class, luxuriating in the world’s most expensive hotels and enjoying the comfort of chauffeur-driven limousine travel – without spending a cent of his own money. (Sound familiar?)

The required pre-trip motivation and report-back documents on how the trips had benefited local citizens – as required by the Public Management Finance Act – never appeared and were never requested by his own party members who clearly admired Byneveldt’s chutzpah.

He said that Byneveldt’s ANC colleagues were fully aware of this abuse but appeals to them to intervene had, unsurprisingly, been ignored.

Ebrahim Rasool

ANC members of the Western Cape provincial legislature at the time included people like Ebrahim ‘Brown Envelope’ Rasool, Marius Fransman, Mcebisi Skwatsha, Max Ozinsky, the security conscious Leonard Ramatlakane, a party-hopper of note, and others.

I said that while I could do nothing personally (I was working as a consultant in the media department of the Cape Town municipality at the time) I could pass the story on to newspaper acquaintances who I knew from my days as a reporter.

The Weekend Argus duly sent Byneveldt an email with a list of questions:

  • How many overseas trips were at taxpayers’ expense?
  • How many days have you spent out of the office on these trips since you became speaker?
  • What has been the total cost to the taxpayer a) in terms of your own expenses and b) the total cost of the trip to the taxpayer of the entire delegation that accompanied you in each of the past four years?
  • How many people accompanied you on these trips in total?
  • Have family members ever accompanied you and, if so, who has paid their expenses?
  • Could you please also supply details of each trip with regard to the specific benefits that flowed to the taxpayers whose money was used to fund these trips?

Self-enrichment

Bathabile Dlamini

Self-enrichment at the taxpayers’ expense is the ANC’s raison d’être, but as President Jacob Zuma himself has pointed out, his policy is to turn a blind eye to those within the party who profit  from their political influence while the majority go hungry or die for lack of proper care. This has been confirmed by our always sober Minister of Social Development, Travelgate fraudster and Cosatu favourite, the honourable Bathabile ‘Smolanyana Skeletons’ Dlamini. We are indebted to her for the confirmation that every single member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee is corrupt. And that, I am assured, is not the alcohol talking.

People like myself who genuinely and sincerely believed the alleged commitment of the African National Congress in 1994 to be an open, transparent and accountable government were disappointed by the open contempt for taxpayers and the extraordinary cynicism reflected in Byneveldt’s reply two weeks after receiving the newspaper’s questions:

“The Western Cape provincial parliament and the office of the speaker in particular hereby reserve the right to respond fully to all and/or any matter raised in your aforesaid e-mail when adequate opportunity to do so avails itself, save to place on record, at this juncture, that the information that you rely on, in a variety of material respects, is incorrect.”

Needless to say, adequate opportunity did not avail itself and Byneveldt, like the ANC’s silent spokespinners, remained resolutely silent on this matter thereafter. To nobody’s surprise, his ANC colleagues in the Wale Street building also maintained their sullenly collaborative silence. He was one of them after all.

Predictably the Weekend Argus article and the response to it resulted in not the slightest ripple of indignation from a South African public punch drunk with daily revelations of ANC Big Vegetable corruption.

In his defence Byneveldt could justifiably point out that the de facto ANC policy is to allow anyone who makes it onto the Loot-freely House slate to pig out, that this is limited only by one’s imagination and that he was hardly alone in enjoying air travel while the majority of those who voted for his party lived in penury with no hope of employment.

Between 2010 and 2013, the former KZN premier Zweli Mkhize chartered planes and helicopters on no less than 45 occasions when he could have travelled by car. Many of these air trips had nothing to do with his official duties.

Leaders of the ANC at a gathering.

These included a R32,000 trip from Pietermaritzburg to Pongola to Durban to attend a funeral in November 2010.

In April 2011, R58,000 was spent on flying Mkhize from Pietermaritzburg to Mthatha, in the Eastern Cape, to attend the wedding of a person known only as “Sambula”.

That July, he flew from Durban to Hluhluwe, at a cost of R22,000, to attend the wedding of “Dumile”. And, a few days after that, R24,000 was spent flying him, return, from Durban to Ulundi, to attend “Mama Magwaza’s funeral”.

Last year, Mkhize flew from Pietermaritzburg to uMkhuze to Durban to attend “Mama Nyawo’s” funeral. That cost R38,000. The DA leader in KZN, Sizwe Mchunu, has called the money spent on Mkhize’s flying privately “completely inappropriate and excessive”.

Last year, News 24 revealed that Gravy Plane flights to and from Cuba for SANDF chief General Solly Shoke, his wife, and three officials cost the taxpayer almost half a million rand.

To the manor born as they say

Supersonic snouting

Minister of Defence Lindiwe Sisulu

The Queen Bee of this sort of supersonic snouting is of course Lindiwe Sisulu who blows literally millions  on chartered flights while the poor suffer as education, hospital, social grant and other services lapse into dysfunctionality under the ANC’s benighted rule.

The ultimate example of this sort of abuse was the refusal by our ‘hole-in-the-head’ Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to put her handbag through an airport scanner, something which cost you and I almost a quarter of a million rand. It was, after all, only taxpayers’ money and the African National Congress believes it has a divine right to squander our money at will.

There is, nonetheless, an ironic twist to this tale which might afford you some small measure of schadenfreude and perhaps even persuade the atheists in our midst that a deity does exist.

At the time the Weekend Argus article appeared, the ANC in the Western Cape was so riven by internecine factionalism, which exists to this day, that Loothuli House decided to reduce the tension by handing out a few ambassadorial posts to cadres with no experience of international diplomacy.

The briber of journalists, Ebrahim Rasool, was given the plum Washington post and Byneveldt was asked to submit names for another posting.

I was told at the time that, as an honest and honourable deployed ANC cadre of uncompromising ethical probity, Byneveld submitted his name, only his name and nobody else’s name and so he got the job.

This information was confirmed in a subsequent Mail & Guardian article by the late Mandy Rossouw:

Shortly after the 2009 elections the ANC asked provinces to nominate candidates for ambassadorial posts.

“It caused chaos, because Shaun [Byneveldt] submitted only his own name,” alleged a former provincial leader.

So where was he posted?

Syria.

Rest assured, however, that Shaun Byneveldt will be comfortably ensconced well away from the action and still enjoying the good things in life as he did when, with the co-operative support of his party, he was ANC speaker in the Western Cape legislature and lived a life of sybaritic delight at your expense and mine.

An example which Gengezi Mgidlana is more than happy to follow while children die in pit toilets – of which there are more than 4,000 at Eastern Cape schools alone.

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.
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