Ministers’ bling days in danger

2009-09-16 09:45

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma wants the newly formed team of cabinet

ministers tasked with looking into the issues surrounding ministers’ bling cars

to ­urgently review and possibly revamp the ministerial handbook.

This would result in cheaper but safer car options. The changes

would also include the creation of a pool of cars for ministers and see

government save when buying in bulk.

Once revised, the handbook would then be presented to Parliament to

be passed.

In the meantime, cabinet has ­ordered that all communication

­regarding ministers’ vehicles be ­handled mainly by Government Communications

and Information Systems (GCIS) to avoid further ­“inflammatory” comments by

spokespeople in the different ministries, a source close to Zuma told City Press


The source said the move followed Zuma’s anger at comments made by

Tiyani Rikhotso, spokesperson for Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda, when

he argued that it was “opportunistic” for trade union ­Cosatu to “embark on a

tirade in a bid to cast aspersions over the ­minister of communications’


Rikhotso added: “It is unfortunate that Cosatu finds itself joining

the bandwagon of those who are hellbent on distracting this new administration

from delivering on its commitments to the electorate.”

The source said people were not happy with Rikhotso’s comments

because they flew in the face of ­Zuma’s efforts to end the controversy over the

bling cars.

“Indeed, the ministers have done everything by the book, but in

these sensitive times you need not create more ­drama,” said the source.

He added that this was no longer just a Nyanda issue. It had been

elevated to cabinet; it was a cabinet matter now and “only Themba Maseko could

comment as government spokesperson”.

The negative publicity was “hurting” Zuma’s image as a man of the

people, said an aide.

While Zuma could not be seen to be breaking ranks with his

ministers, who had done things by the book, he was increasingly getting worried

that the scandal was stealing the thunder from his hands-on approach to service


“The thorny issue, for now, is whose ethics or standards or morals

we must use, because the pressure groups, the opposition and other ­interested

parties have hijacked the issue, and yet the ministers have not broken any

laws,” another ­government source said yesterday.

“Zuma wants ­sensitivity in all this and any further focus on cars

is going to hurt him further.”

Meanwhile, Maseko has defended political office-bearers who have

splurged millions of rands of taxpayers’ money on expensive cars, saying the

spending was necessary to “enable them to do their duties without


He insisted that the ­decision to centralise communication over the

ministers’ cars was not taken by the presidency. “The reason is that when these

ministers bought the cars, they were complying with a national policy framework,

which is the ministerial handbook. If there is any explanation, it needs to come

from the centre. It was not necessarily a presidential decision,” Maseko said.


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