Resignation of MPs not all that bad

Former Tourism minister Derek Hanekom.
Former Tourism minister Derek Hanekom.
Image: ELIZABETH SEJAKE / The Times

Losing a job, any job, is not a pleasant experience. It is especially so for those, in the current economic climate, who then face the reality that they may not find another opportunity again.

For our politicians, being removed from a public position often does not mean the end of the road. They are often redeployed elsewhere and, if they have special skills, they easily re-establish themselves in a new field where their previous access to power is seen as good currency.

Yet even they do not often take being axed from office easily. Losing the power of one's office, the perks as well as the prestige that comes with holding such an office takes some getting used to.

It should therefore not be a surprise that there would be some disappointment, and even anger, among former ministers who were not re-appointed to President Cyril Ramaphosa's cabinet.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen a growing list of ex-ministers, who were now back benchers in the National Assembly, quitting after failing to make it into the new executive.

Some have done so in order to take advantage of the once-off gratuity one gets when they leave public office as a minister, rather than an ordinary MP.

This once-off payment, which has been the practice since 2008, is paid by the state to cabinet ministers and deputy ministers who have served for a five-year term or more and who are not returning to the National Assembly as backbenchers.

Previous reports indicate that, depending on how many terms they served in government, former ministers and deputy ministers can walk away with millions of rands, excluding the pension due to them.

For older former ministers, many of whom started building their pension portfolios very late because they were previously involved in the Struggle full-time and got no salary, this option makes sense.

Accusing them of being greedy and not wanting to serve their country is to misunderstand their situation.

We should also not condemn the others who are leaving for different reasons. If their unhappiness with not being retained as ministers makes them feel that they would not be able to serve us as public representatives, then let them be and let's hope they are replaced by MPs with energy and ambition.

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