Then and now: South Africans pick up the tab for a doubling of cabinet ministers between 1994 and 2018

Then and now: South Africans pick up the tab for a doubling of cabinet ministers between 1994 and 2018

- Nelson Mandela’s cabinet in 1994 consisted of just 17 ministers

- The current cabinet, which is a legacy of Jacob Zuma, has grown exponentially, there are 35 members plus an additional 37 deputy ministers

- Estimates point to a possible saving of around R4.6 billion if the cabinet is reorganised to have around 15 members

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Former president Nelson Mandela was not only a great statesman, but he was famously efficient and frugal when it came to state spending. Mandela famously said his salary was too much and donated most of it to children’s charities.

Mandela took this efficient attitude into governing the country and initially appointed a cabinet which consisted of 17 ministers in 1994. This was decreased to 16 in 1996. Mandela believed the cabinet should be a lean, mean service delivery machine.


However, under his successor Thabo Mbeki the number of cabinet members ballooned to 28 members and since Jacob Zuma’s time has grown to a monstrous size of 35 ministers and 37 deputy ministers. This brings the size of the South African executive to 74. discovered that this makes South Africa’s cabinet and executive one of the largest in the world. South Africans cough up roughly R720 million per year to cover just the salaries of the President, deputy-present, ministers and deputy ministers.

This excludes other benefits to which each individual is entitled such as a private vehicle allowance of 25% of their salary. Each individual is further entitled to two official vehicles (one for Pretoria and one for Cape Town) the value of which cannot exceed more than 70% of their salary.

Cabinet members also get to live in a state-owned residence in either Cape Town or Pretoria, the home is serviced by staff employed by the state. In addition to this, cabinet members and their spouses are allowed to fly first class to international destinations and receive a further 30 single domestic business class flight tickets per year.

Last year the Democratic Alliance (DA) pointed out that the government would spend more than R2 billion per year just on VIP protection services for ministers and deputy ministers.

Shockingly the public wage bill accounts for 40% of the government’s total annual expenditure. Upon taking office, President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to cut bloat the from the government and return the cabinet to Mandela’s wish of a lean mean service delivery machine.

Current estimates point to a possible saving of between R4.6 and R5.2 billion if he makes good on this promise and cuts the cabinet back to 15 or 16 members.


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