Government blows R55 million on new bakkies for traditional leaders

 ·29 Nov 2023

The Limpopo Provincial Government has spent R55 million for 102 bakkies to gift to “deserving traditional leaders” in the province.

On Monday (November 27), Limpopo Premier Chupu Stanley Mathabatha handed over 57 vehicles at an official ceremony in Polokwane. Costing the taxpayer roughly R540,000 a bakkie, the remaining 45 cars are said to be handed over “as soon as [they] have been delivered” before the end of the year.

MEC for Limpopo Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (CoGHSTA), Basikopo Makamu, announced this giant giveaway at his department’s 2023/24 budget vote earlier this year.

The province said this purchase aligns with South African legislation that “directs” the Department of CoGHSTA to provide “enabling resources to ensure that traditional leaders can effectively deliver on the responsibilities tied to their positions.”

The R55 million spent on the new vehicles is part of the provincial department’s numerous financial allocations for senior traditional leaders in Limpopo for the 2023/24 financial year.

Limpopo Finance MEC Seaparo Sekoati said in his budget speech back in March 2023 that extending the department’s budget for traditional leaders does not stop at purchasing R55 million worth of cars. It also includes allocating R25 million for constructing and maintaining traditional council offices and R5 million for furnishing them.

Wayne Duvenage, CEO of non-profit civil rights organisation Outa said that, while the important role of traditional leaders must be respected, he questioned why R55 million was allocated for 102 leaders when “a population of more than 6.4 million people (in the province), is suffering on several fronts”.

“More urgent issues [that are] faced by Limpopo communities [were] not given preference, such as clinics without backup power, ambulances (the provincial government promised 430 ambulances to the province before the end of this year, but so far only delivered 28)” or the issue of having 66,000 learners in Limpopo still using pit toilets, said Duvenage.

Outa also questioned the “timing and intention behind this vehicle allocation, especially with the upcoming national elections in 2024 and with all the needs in the province. Public resources should be allocated fairly to address urgent and widespread community needs, instead of buying votes.”

Traditional leadership is a prevalent part of the South African political scene. There are national and provincial houses of traditional leaders across the country that have been set up to promote the role of traditional leadership and act as an advisory board to the national government.

The state already allocates over R1.2 billion annually to traditional leaders. Individually, over R1.3 million is allocated per king or queen, over R1.2 million for provincial traditional leaders, nearly R300,000 for senior traditional leaders, and over R120,000 for headmen/women.

This does not include the salary allocated for staff in the houses.

Read: How much Kings, Queens, and other traditional leaders get paid in South Africa

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