By Lauren Rawlins
On Saturday, 9 May 2009, Jacob Zuma was inaugurated as the country’s fourth democratically elected president.
Huge crowds gathered at the Union buildings to celebrate the historic event. Various VIPs came from around the world to wish Zuma well and each received a complimentary umbrella and blanket. Meanwhile, those citizens who came to watch were treated to a Nandos meal and a concert afterwards. Sounds great, but then there’s no such thing as a free inauguration.
By the end of it all, expenses reportedly came to R75 million, excluding the security costs. Of course, as usual, this fortune came out of the South African taxpayers’ pockets. Considering the recent revelation that South Africa has the third highest unemployment rate in the world, this sort of money is no spare change. Raising concern over the cost of the event during the week running up to it, the Democratic Alliance (DA) claimed that the R75 million put towards the inauguration could also have bought 1 900 low-cost houses, 25 000 bullet-proof vests or a new 75-bed hospital.
Zuma included in his inauguration speech the fact that “we must acknowledge that we find ourselves in difficult economic times.” Such a statement could only have been expected but, in light of the heavy costs behind this very speech, questions arise as to whether we are really in a position to be spending such vast amounts of money at any point. It is, of course, important to celebrate our new president’s inauguration correctly, but perhaps greater frugality would have been beneficial.
The DA, who came second in the polls in April, agreed and expressed concerns about the high cost of the event. The DA has been reported as saying they felt it was inappropriate in the country’s present state, and the economic crisis the whole world is in, to be spending this sort of money on the inauguration.
Less than a week after the inauguration, the Rand fell by 3%. While currency change cannot be attributed to the likes of a large party, it is still important to note the instability of the nation’s economy and to highlight the significance of the cost of event. The ANC did say they had decided to have the event on a Saturday and not during the week, so to prevent another public holiday, therefore cutting expenses. Other measures taken, however, have not been publicised, leaving the nation uninformed as to where their taxes have been going.