Cosatu calls for an end to free rides for former MPs

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Parliament’s travel policy, which allows for free air tickets for former MPs and their spouses, should be scrapped, trade union federation Cosatu said on Monday. 

“When employees leave their place of employment, they leave with the remaining salaries and pensions due to them and nothing more. MPs and their spouses should not be treated differently,” said Cosatu parliamentary co-ordinator Matthew Parks.

Two weeks ago, National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces chair Amos Masondo approved a revised travel policy which reduced the number of taxpayer-sponsored flights for former ministers, deputy ministers and MPs from 48 to 12 a year.

In terms of the new policy, former MPs will no longer enjoy the post-retirement benefits of flying around the country free of charge for life as this has been capped to a maximum of five years, SowetanLIVE’s sister publication TimesLIVE reported.  

The reduction of free air tickets is a step in the right direction but not good enough, said Parks.

”Plane tickets provided to MPs are a tool of the trade to enable them to travel from their homes and constituencies to parliament. A lesser number of tickets are provided for their spouses and dependent children to enable them to live with their family members while parliament is in session.”  

Previously, former MPs and ministers, as well as their spouses, could fly around the country for free, including business class. The benefit was also enjoyed by former apartheid-era ministers as part of their post-retirement benefits.

The government’s financial constraints have led to budget cuts for frontline services the poor depend on, including education, health, policing and social grants, said Parks.

“It is unacceptable that MPs have chosen to ignore this and continue their path of enrichment and self-entitlement. They continue to vote for former MPs and their spouses to receive 12 free domestic plane tickets a year.

“These are the same MPs who voted for a budget that imposed a 0% increase in the wages of nurses, teachers, police and correctional services officers in 2020.

“These MPs, across party lines, have sought to lecture public servants, including lowly paid cleaners and security guards, on the need to tighten their belts. The value of these free plane tickets per MP and spouse will in some instances be double what a cleaner in the public service earns in a year.”

The federation slammed MPs who “watched state capture unfold, looted taxpayers’ money and watched the collapse of state-owned entities” and now preside over the highest unemployment rate in SA’s history.

“We should be asking if they deserve the salaries they are paid, let alone giving them and their spouses free plane tickets for life,” said Parks.

“We should not applaud politicians for committing to eating less at the taxpayers’ expense. This cosmetic reduction in benefits for former MPs and their spouses is an abomination and an insult to the workers and the unemployed.

“Parliament must develop a sense of conscience and scrap all benefits for former MPs and their spouses. Anything less should be rejected with the contempt it deserves.”

TimesLIVE

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