President Cyril Ramaphosa has made a U-turn on perks and luxuries for South Africa’s millionaire ministers, announcing that he is withdrawing the 2022 amendments to the ministerial handbook, and sending the guide for review.

Through his spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, the president said that the message from South Africans over the perks was loud and clear.

“President Ramaphosa has ordered the withdrawal process of the presidential minute on the Executive Memebers’ guide – commonly known as the ministerial handbook – of 2022. The withdrawal will give effect to the 2019 version of the guide, pending a review,” Magwenya said.

“President Ramaphosa accepts and appreciates the public sentiments on the matter; however, the impression created that the amendments were conducted in secrecy and to avoid public scrutiny is false.”

The withdrawal comes just weeks after changes to the handbook made headlines, highlighting how, from April 2022, ministers enjoyed free water and electricity on the taxpayers’ tab, while also being afforded luxuries like R800,000 vehicles and access to as many as 15 aides.

Previously, under the 2019 version of the handbook, ministers only got R5,000 off their utility bills, with the balance having to be paid out of pocket. The perk will revert to this version until the review is complete.

Some of the changes were reported earlier in the year, but the full details of the amendments were not publicly known.

South Africans, battered by weeks of load shedding and a continued cost of living crisis in the country, were outraged that ministers were living free of the same toils – all while drawing salaries of between R2 million and R2.4 million a year.

Opposition party, the DA, and union federation, Cosatu, both called for the amendments to be scrapped, with the former approaching the office of the Public Protector over the apparent fact that there is no law that provides for the handbook to even exist.

The DA gave Ramaphosa an ultimatum to retract the handbook, or it would mobilise and march on ministers’ private residences in Pretoria.

Minister in the presidency, Mondli Gungubele, tried to justify the perks, telling SAfm that ministers’ positions were ‘insecure’ and that they could lose their job at any moment.

Read: Push to scrap free water, electricity and other perks for ministers in South Africa