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Mpumalanga premier defends R5m spent on cars

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza's office says the purchase of three luxury vehicles worth R5-million was for security. The Star newspaper reported recently that at least one of the vehicles was purchased a few weeks after Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced measures to curb government spending. The vehicles include an Audi A8, a BMW X5 and a Range Rover, which was delivered last month.

"We would like to put it clear that premier Mabuza never bought a vehicle in the first two years of his term of office," his spokesperson Zibonele Mncwango said in a recent statement. "In actual fact, he used the vehicle that was being utilised by the former premier Mr. Thabanga Makwetla (a Lexus LS 460) up until the same vehicle started giving problems," he said." (the vehicle) regrettably ended up having mechanical problems as it had also accumulated huge mileage and certainly needed to be exchanged." The Lexus is now at the government garage awaiting disposal.

Mncwango said a Range Rover SUV was purchased, but that it too had mechanical problems and was traded-in for a similar vehicle. He said an Audi A8 was purchased in 2013 as a back-up car in the event of problems with the Range Rover, or if it went in for a service. "We wish to state that all processes and regulations were followed in purchasing both vehicles for the premier, based on his entitlements," Mncwango said.

He said Mabuza had often had to borrow vehicles from mayors and some MEC’s because of problems with his cars. "There were times when the premier's security was challenged, as he was even involved in two accidents due to lack of advance vehicles for his protectors.”

Remote areas
"It should also be noted that Mpumalanga is indeed a rural province and the premier's work is not only in the urban areas," he said, adding that Mabuza's two vehicles had ensured he was able to get to far-flung and remote areas without difficulty.

Mncwango said Mabuza also bought a BMW X5, which he gave to his bodyguards. "The delivery of a VIP vehicle from [the South African Police Service] to our province was delayed and ... the premier's guards had no vehicle." He said an off-road vehicle and a backup car would always be needed considering the premier's scope of work and his need for security.

In terms of the ministerial handbook, premiers are allowed to change their vehicles after 120 000 km. or five years - whichever comes first. The cost must not exceed 70% of their remuneration package. Premiers' annual salaries were set at R1 888 315 from April 1 2013. This means a premier may use a vehicle costing R1 321 820. An entry level Range Rover costs R1 501 678. The cost of the other two vehicles has not been released, nor has it been made clear if the ministerial handbook allows for the purchase of more than one vehicle per person. It further does not indicate how a Province facing multiple financial challenges in the form of deteriorating road infrastructure, bankrupt municipalities and huge service delivery backlogs – amongst many other items – can justify this expenditure in the first place.

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