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Sun Oct 26 06:24:14 SAST 2014

Son writes off senior ANC leader's vehicle

THANDO MGAGA and MHLABUNZIMA MEMELA | 25 February, 2013 00:36
Mercedes-Benz ML500

A senior member of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature has been at pains to explain an accident in which her luxury vehicle, driven by her son, was written off.

ANC member of the provincial legislator Happy Blose's son, Nathi, who is one of 22 chauffeurs who earn R264000 a month from state coffers to drive politicians to and from the legislature, was involved in an accident, with his mother in the car, two weeks ago. A case was not opened with the police.

According to two legislators who did not want to be named, Nathi, 21, allegedly drove into a bakkie after going through a red robot in Hoosen Haffejee Street in Pietermaritzburg.

The Mercedes-Benz ML rolled twice before landing on its side.

Blose and her son escaped injury .

Blose denied her son had caused the accident, blaming the bakkie driver. She confirmed that her car was written off.

Blose said the bakkie had hit her vehicle on the fender, causing it to roll. It came to a halt after hitting a concrete slab.

Her son is no stranger to road accidents. When he was 16 years old, he was involved in a collision near Howick, outside Pietermaritzburg, while driving his mother's Dodge Journey. Two people died as a result.

Blose said her son was still attending the case.

The legislature approved the chauffeur policy in 2010. It allows sickly, disabled and old legislators to be provided with drivers.

DA MP John Steenhuisen said legislators were abusing the policy by appointing friends and relatives as their drivers.

"MPLs are getting their friends and family onto the payroll of the legislature. Clearly there is a violation of the Public Finance Management Act and supply chain management policy," he said.

Failure by the legislature to check the profile of the drivers put other motorists at risk, said Steenhuisen.

He said it would be incorrect to employ a driver who had been involved in an accident.

"It's a very serious offence for someone to drive a car without a licence while under age. The fact that the MPL's son was under age while driving, that alone is criminal. I won't be surprised if the legislature pays for the latest accident . I do not see the insurance paying.

"Politicians are public representatives. We have a duty to save the public, not the other way around."

Steenhuisen said legislators and MPs were among the top earners in the country and should be able to pay for their drivers.

The DA has asked Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate the appointment of drivers.

"I had received an acknowledgement letter from Madonsela indicating that the matter was being investigated. But I will do follow-ups to check how far the matter is now," he said.

The drivers are appointed with their terms of employment being linked to the remainder of the legislators' term of office.

The legislature determines the salary paid to the driver and foots the bill for accommodation and travel expenses, where required. The politicians' drivers cost more than R3-million a year.

KwaZulu-Natal legislature spokesman Wonder Hlongwa referred the question about chauffers and the accident to deputy speaker Mtholephi Mthimkhulu.

He declined to comment, saying he had no information about the accident.

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