Coronavirus News Africa

Covid-19 overshadows Parliament budget debate



Tito Mboweni, the Minister of Finance.

Waldo Swiegers/Getty Images

  • Covid-19 overshadows the National Assembly‘s debate on the 2020 Appropriations Bill.
  • DA says the coronavirus lockdown has left many South Africans with no income.
  • The bill will be sent to the National Council of Provinces for approval.

The Covid-19 pandemic overshadowed Parliament’s debate on the 2020 Appropriations Bill on Friday as many MPs believe its proposals were no longer valid.

During a late afternoon sitting, the bill was passed but several MPs said the focus needed to shift to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s emergency budget on 24 June.

For Mboweni to table a Special Adjustments Budget to make provision for the financial demands of the Coid-19 pandemic in two weeks time, the bill had to be passed by Parliament.

EFF MP Veronica Mente said the government was already spending money on Covid-19 interventions.

“What we are doing here has no material substance and is not linked to the reality. It is about time that we don’t go back to cutting government expenditure,” she added.

Freedom Front Plus MP Wouter Wessels said: 

It is non-budget. This is a non-event. It’s unrealistic, it is unattainable. This looting and mismanagement of the fiscus has left this country with no reserves for emergencies and crises. Do not blame the Covid-19 crisis for this, blame the virus of corruption and looting.

Wouter Wessels, FF Plus

NFP MP Ahmed Shaik Emam said in the midst of the pandemic, parliamentarians were still fighting among each other.

“Every single day, we see how our people’s lives are being thrown. Yet, we come here and try and score political points. It seems as if poor lives just don’t matter anymore,” he added.

Earlier this week, Parliament, in a statement, said the committee noted the bill proposes major budget baseline expenditure reductions and reprioritisation of funds through R66 billion in reductions in the budget baseline.

Valid

“The Standing Committee on Appropriations was mindful of the fact that the budget assumptions and allocations that the Appropriation Bill proposes [as tabled by Mboweni] were no longer valid due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the statement read. 

DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis said the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 had left many South Africans with no income.

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“How does a party that says it is the voice of the poor act with such callous indifference to the suffering of poor people? These are real people. And their lives matter. Why does the ANC govern as if their lives don’t matter? As though their poverty, their loss, their anxiety don’t matter,” he added.

GOOD MP Shaun August said the Covid-19 crisis had fundamentally changed spending priorities.

“As we mount our defence systems to navigate the disaster, we must be sure to leave no room for opportunistic officials to syphon any funds to themselves,” he added.

The bill will be sent to the National Council of Provinces for approval.



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