From libraries to spies, here is what’s being cut to pay for SA’s coronavirus budget

Business Insider SA
Budget decreases

  • Finance minister Tito Mboweni delivered SA's coronavirus budget on Wednesday.
  • The massive reprioritisation of money to deal with Covid-19 has seen some deep cuts to existing allocations.
  • Food security, land restitution, and school infrastructure will have to wait, and universities are getting only essential maintenance.
  • Libraries, spies, and the Square Kilometre Array have also seen cuts.
  • For more stories go to

Tax income has plummeted just as new – and sometimes very large – expenses cropped up, finance minister Tito Mboweni told South Africa on Wednesday, as he delivered the emergency coronavirus budget.

Across government departments, vast sums of money have been reallocated to deal with mundane logistics such as sanitising rooms and vehicles, as well as to cushion the social and economic impact of the coronavirus disaster.

In some areas, that means greatly reduced spending for at least the current financial year.

From spies to libraries and across food security and school infrastructure, few areas have been spared.

These are some of the cuts to South Africa's national budget to make room for coronavirus spending, and where the money had been supposed to go.

R2.2 billion for school infrastructure

R4.4 billion that was supposed to be used on school infrastructure has been reallocated to pay for disinfecting classrooms, providing soap and water, and rolling out mobile classrooms to reduce class sizes.

On top of that, R2.2 billion will be cut from maintenance and capital spending projects for schools this year.

R2.8 billion to upgrade mostly informal settlements

The human settlements development grant is losing around R1.7 billion, and the urban settlements development grant is being reduced by R1.1 billion, for a combined R2.8 billion.

Both grants deal largely with the upgrading of informal settlements, on provincial and metropolitan levels respectively.

(A struggling project to issue title deeds has also seen R378 million yanked from its budget, which will go straight into an emergency housing grant "for the rapid provision of emergency housing solutions in areas where existing housing arrangements do not allow people to socially distance or self-isolate where required.")

R2.9 billion on roads, and another R1.9 billion on public transport infrastructure

The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) has lost just under R1.1 billion that had been earmarked as capital spending on non-toll roads.

A grant for the maintenance of provincial roads has also been reduced by R1.8 billion, with planned construction projects delayed.

Meanwhile the public transport network grant, which funds projects in 13 cities across the country, has also been reduced by just over R1.9 billion.

R1.6 billion in trade and industry incentives

Between the many incentives – for both private and state companies – administered by the department of trade, industry and competition, some R1.6 billion will be postponed for a year at least.

R312 million for community libraries

R10 million that would have gone to new libraries, upgrading existing libraries, and "the purchase of library materials" will now instead be spent decontaminating libraries.

The total spending on libraries has also been cut by R312 million.

R360 million on the Square Kilometre Array

Construction of South Africa's section of the the giant Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope in the Karoo "is likely to be rescheduled", with a little under R360 million diverted from its funding in the current year.

R900 million for marketing SA

South African Tourism is losing R866 million that was due to be spent on both local and international advertising to market SA as a tourist destination.

Brand South Africa, with a broader reputation-marketing mandate, has also had its budget cut by R30 million.

R78 million for the migration to digital television

Just over R78 million less will be spent on vouchers due to be handed to households to prepare them for the switchover to digital television, which means old analogue sets will no longer work.

See also: Up to 3.2 million SA households could be in line for free (or at least subsidised) TVs

R90 million on military veterans

Transfers to households of military veterans have been reduced by R90 million, with an "expected reduction in houses to be built and bursaries required" for those veterans and their dependents.

R284 million for better court buildings

A court infrastructure project, for both new buildings and upgrading existing ones, has been pushed out, with a budget reduction of R284 million for the year.

R161 million to improve overcrowding in prisons

A "buildings and other fixed structures" budget for the department of correctional services, intended to help deal with overcrowded prisons, has had projects worth R161 million pushed out beyond the current financial year.

R870 million for universities and TVET colleges

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, and universities, have been put on essential maintenance only. Between that and a delay in new projects, their infrastructure budgets are down by R370 million and R500 million respectively. 

R780 million for land redistribution and restitution – and R1.1 billion for food security and production

Projects to buy land for redistribution will be suspended, saving R444 million, while the budget for payments in lieu of restitution of land has been reduced by R336 million, for a total of R780 million less across such projects.

Meanwhile a long list of projects to support farmers, expand agro-processing, and help increase food security will be reduced by a combined R1.1 billion.

R500 million to connect more people to the power grid

The Integrated National Electrification Programme will get half a billion rand less to connect households to the electricity system in municipal areas, and for the rollout of bulk infrastructure to get electricity to more people.

R200 million on spies

Transfers to SA's secret service agencies will be down R200 million due to what is described only as the "suspension of some activities".

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