The price of a glorious inauguration

By Megan Ellis & Tatum Holloway

On Saturday, 9 May, South Africa witnessed the inauguration of our new democratically-elected president, Jacob Zuma. During the inauguration, South African Defence Force planes flew in formation, thousands of foreign dignitaries arrived, and free Nando’s meals were available for those attending. But the price tag which came along with the celebration raised both eyebrows and voices. R75 million, which came from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Public Works, was the price tag on this inauguration, excluding security and police protection, making Zuma’s inauguration the most expensive of South Africa’s democratically-elected presidents thus far. The question posed now is: was this cost justified?

In a country fraught with poverty and which has the third highest unemployment rate in the world, should exuberant celebrations such as this be held? Should the money have been put toward a better cause? A press release from the Democratic Alliance states that R75 million could have been used for “1 900 low-cost houses, 25 000 bullet-proof vests or to build a new 75-bed hospital.” On the other hand, the cost has been defended as necessary to celebrate South Africa’s democracy, and as a glimpse of the country’s intended future. Can South Africa really afford this type of expenditure? Activate has asked you, fellow readers, what you think about this contentious issue.

Sifiso Sikhakhane
First year BA

First of all, we need to think about how much of a big event a president’s inauguration is. It was a huge event which was meant to involve the whole country and international people. If a wedding costs a fortune, imagine how much the inauguration would be.

If [the issue] was based on the money, then perhaps [the DA] should consider changing the salary they receive from parliament. These people receive a huge salary whilst people are hungry. Why doesn’t Helen Zille complain about that then?

I would say that, yes, maybe some of the money which was spent could have helped boost up a few people’s lives, but my argument here is that this thing has become a major issue just because this money was spent on Zuma, the uneducated black President. If Helen is so concerned about the money being wasted, then why wasn’t she complaining when the state’s money was used for Zuma’s court cases? Now, because the money is used to honour Zuma, it is bad! I am not praising Jacob Zuma and making him my God. What I am saying is that people have been influenced by the media and politicians such as Helen Zille. They haven’t bothered to go back to what really happened and give Zuma a chance to share his story. Zuma deserves the happiness and I put my trust in him to share his happiness with the country.

If Obama had spent R75million and was our President, would there have been this argument?

Thato Lesoro
Matric learner, Graham College

He can do whatever he wants to do! He has the right to fly in private jets, eat the best food and experience great things – because he just has that clout.

Njeri Ramau
Fourth year BPharm

That is ridiculous! He has so many corruption charges and now he gets treated like royalty while thousands of South Africans are suffering. It is not a good way to utilise the country’s resources.

Vincent Ellis
University of JHB BCom Honours

This type of spending by any South African political party on any ‘celebration’, for whatever reason, is wrong. In the current global economic meltdown where every means of cost reduction needs to be practised religiously, such wasteful expenditure is a cardinal sin. Over 300 000 South Africans have lost their jobs during the first quarter of 2009, with the figure expected to rise much higher. The gap between rich and poor is growing constantly. The whole economy is sliding into recession, as seen by the Real GDP, as the market prices figure dropped by 1.8% in the last quarter of 2008. In the end, the poorest of poor will provide the first casualties of government’s careless spending. Another important factor is that South Africa’s economy is carried on the backs of the ‘rich’. The wealthier individuals provide additional spending and investment. If these individuals lose confidence in the government, South Africa will face a grim economic future with further job losses. Added to this is the fact that South Africa is run on a progressive tax system, which means the rich pay a higher percentage of tax than the poor. Therefore, if the rich feel that the government is wasting tax money and acting recklessly, immigration may increase and government will lose even more of its tax base. This means that expenditure on vital public services, e.g. education, healthcare, etc. will be cut and the poor (who rely heavily on pensions, unemployment funds, etc.) will realise reduced aid in the future.

Phumla Fundai
Peppergrove Pick ‘n’ Pay Assistant

Ai, it’s too much! People in this country are very needy. It could have been spent on HIV, schools and the street children, not just some big party.

Wayne Mainga
Third year Bcom

This is such a waste of money! Wow… it could really be used for better and bigger things. The people in this country are needy and there is enough money, it is just not being utilised properly.

Professor Arthur Webb
Dean of Commerce at Rhodes University (MA and PhD)

There are two ways of looking at this. One way is from an economic perspective – government funding is a scarce resource and should it be poured into this? There is the argument that there are so many other pressing developmental needs in the country and clearly it seems to have been a misallocation [of funds]. In other words, it would have been far better to have seen more bursaries for tertiary education or better funding for teachers… the list goes on endlessly.

On the other hand, I think we’ve got to take a larger perspective of this, perhaps a sort of socio-view of it. I think, very often, people equate this in their minds with Zuma the person. I don’t think we should do that. This, after all, is a celebration of our democracy. I think that if we look at it that way, there is far less reason to be griping. It’s a small price to pay for an affirmation within our larger South African population that, yes, democracy is working, yes, the people have spoken, yes, this is our new leader. That’s how I see it. One can always argue the alternative and say the money would have been better spent some other way. I think, though, that, just like you as a student might feel like occasionally you want to go out for a dinner, not because there isn’t food served in res, but just because you want a change, that this is the South Africa going out and spoiling itself.

Hanna Richter
Drama Honours

It’s just another political f*ck up. I can’t comprehend why so much money is allowed to be spent on something that will only last about 24 hours. Too many people are suffering, and this money could be used to eliminate some of this hardship.

Activate makes sure that readers hear all sides of the story. You can send your opinions to Nyeleti at


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