Fat cat politicians should lead by example
By Nicolette Dirk and Angelique Ruzicka
Last month Northern Cape premier, Sylvia Lucas, spent and gobbled her way through just over R53 000 worth of fast-food.
She dined at South African family favourites such as the Spur, Mike’s Kitchen, KFC, Wimpy and Ocean Basket.
The Premier is not the only fat cat to have a bad relationship with food and money. Ousted ANC Youth Leader, Julius Malema blamed Heineken for his bulky frame while he spent loads of money on lavish champagne parties. And let’s not forget that back in 2011, 34 state departments spent R194 million on catering.
Meanwhile this all flies in the face of Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s efforts in reigning in the government’s spending on non-communicable diseases. Some of these illnesses are directly the result of an unhealthy lifestyle, which is putting a strain on our healthcare system’s finances.
The South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the first comprehensive study of health and nutrition in our country, found that a lot of people are at risk of developing lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes. It showed there was an increased risk if you make bad food choices and don’t exercise.
Motsoaledi aims to fight this scourge by introducing new legislation to control unhealthy habits, including reducing the amount of fatty acids and salt we have in our food.
But perhaps the health minister should reign in his colleagues before he tells the public what we should eat and drink?
Stress in the workplace
Stress is, of course, one of the big reasons behind why we comfort eat.
Lucas incurred most of her fast-food debt in the first 10 weeks of her position as Premier of the Northern Cape.
There are plenty of concerns. Last week the public protector, Thuli Madonsela reportedly found cases of maladministration in the province’s Gamagara municipality.
According to reports the investigation stemmed from service delivery protests by Olifantshoek residents in 2012 calling for the late mayor, Maria Diniza’s resignation.
Could this type of stress have driven her to tuck into that Family Feast? Nutritionist, Megan Bosman points out that we are living in a ‘stress age’. We are working stressful jobs with added pressure to be successful both corporately and personally.
“For many people, their hectic schedules often leave them with very little or no time to prepare healthy food all the time. Time management is key. If you are in a situation where you need to grab something to eat on the go then you shouldn’t assume all fast-food is the same, there are some fast-foods which are better for you than others,” she says.
So what could the Premier have done differently?
The Premier could’ve set an example by eating healthily and even earning herself some money in the process. Bosman’s alternatives to deep-fried and salty fast food includes fruit, nuts, boiled egg on rice cakes, biltong, vegetable sticks with hummus, fruit and yoghurt.
Had she chosen carrots instead of a Wimpy burger a reward scheme from one leading medical aid offers 25% cash back on healthy food at Pick n Pay stores. Lucas stood to get R39 750 back in cash had she belonged to this scheme.
Time she may not have but it’s not like she has to do much research about which foods are healthy. Helpfully, Pick n Pay and Woolworths have a healthy food list and she could have got rewarded every time she made a purchase on this.
With all this wealth of information at her fingertips and many different reward schemes out there to incentivise her (we only mentioned one), it’s hard to empathise with the Premier even if she’s stressed from work.
There’s a lesson that we call all learn out of this. And that is: It pays to be healthy. If you eat healthily and exercise regularly, not only will you alleviate the financial burden on other taxpayers but you’ll pay less in medical fees (in the long run) too.