Ministers splurge on 13 new cars worth R11.8m
Despite SA’s financial woes, ministers have received new luxury cars in the past six months
Government has splurged R11,8 million on 13 luxury cars for ministers in the last six months, despite a shrinking public purse and existing austerity measures introduced to curb such spending.
The splurge is contained in national treasury documents that were presented in reply to questions by DA MP David Maynier to parliament's standing committee on appropriations this week.
The documents revealed that several departments asked for budgetary deviations so that their ministers could travel in style.
The latest splurge on the ministerial vehicles is in defiance of belt tightening measures that were introduced by former finance minister Pravin Gordhan back in 2013.
Gordhan and the national treasury at the time capped the procurement cars for ministers at around a half a million rands and this was adopted as government policy by cabinet.
At the time an entry level BMW 5-series Gordhan had used as an example retailed at around R500,000 but now sells at around R700,000.MAKE MINE A MERC
The two most expensive vehicles were bought by the department of public works - a Mercedes Benz GLE 350D and Toyota Land Cruiser V200 at costs of R1,228 million and R1,264 million respectively, for use by minister Nathi Nhleko and his deputy, Jeremy Cronin.
The reason given for the purchase was that the two BMW's which had been replaced were seven and ten years old, and had more than the prescribed 120,000 kilometres on the clock in terms of the ministerial handbook.
The ministerial handbook provide guidelines on the procurement of tools of trade for cabinet ministers and has been "under review" since 2010.NEW DEPUTY, NEW CARS
The department of public works shifted money from its support services budget to pay for the cars.
There is nothing small about the cars the department of small business development bought for minister Lindiwe Zulu (a Mercedes Benz E400 at R1,1 million) or her newly appointed deputy Nomathemba November, who scored two vehicles - a Lexus GS350 at R900,000 and a BMW 5 series at a cool R1 million.
The department justified the costs by claiming the ministerial car was due for replacement, whereas the new deputy was entitled to it.
Faith Muthambi, the minister of public service and administration, scored a new Lexus RX350 EX at a cost of R813,886 after her previous vehicle was damaged in an accident.SPARE NO EXPENSE
The department of transport bought the most vehicles, namely four - two for minister Joe Maswanganyi and two for his deputy, Sindi Chikunga.
Maswanganyi got a Toyota Fortuner at a relatively modest R557,927 and a Mercedes E350d at R984,000. Chikunga received a more expensive package of a BMW X5 at R984,000 and a Jaguar XJ3 at R800,000.Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, the deputy minister of science and technology has received a new Audi Q7 at R1 million, after the previous vehicle notched up 150,000 kilometres.New deputy minister of communications Tandi Mahambehlala has two brand new vehicles - a Jaguar XF 2.0 d R Sport at R748,941 and a Mercedes Benz GLC 250 at R755,888.
Yesterday, finance ministry spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete said no caps on the cost of new ministerial cars currently existed because none had been passed by the current cabinet yet.LIMOS FOR THE LUCKY
Maynier said he was shocked by the contents: “It is just wrong, when we are facing the biggest fiscal crisis since the global financial meltdown, for ministers who should ultimately be leading the belt-tightening fight to be spending millions of Rands on flashy ministerial vehicles – especially when ordinary people are struggling every day just to put food on the table.”
Maynier said it was ironic that some of the funds used to buy the Ministerial vehicles stemmed from treasury's own recommended cost containment measures: “National treasury to their credit have implemented cost containment measures, but they appear to be simply ignored by the departments,” Maynier said.'MIDDLE FINGER'
Howard Dembovsky, chairman of Justice Project South Africa which monitors road traffic administration, described the vehicle expenditure as an 'abuse': “What possible justification does one have for that other than 'I want to be flash'”?
“What is the difference between this and Robert Mugabe's son buying two Rolls Royces? It simply astounds me that they feel it is necessary to keep showing everybody the middle finger,” Dembovsky said.