Mbombela - Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza’s office has defended the purchase of three luxury vehicles worth R5 million in one year for his use, a Sapa correspondent reported.
The Star newspaper reported on Friday 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 included 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 statement on Friday.
"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. "[It] regrettably ended up having mechanical problems as it had also accumulated huge mileage [and] certainly needed to be exchanged."
The vehicle was 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 backup car in the event of problems with the Range Rover, of 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 MECs 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.
"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 had also bought a BMW X5, which he gave to his bodyguards.
"The delivery of a VIP vehicle from [SA 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 security.
In terms of the Ministerial Handbook, premiers are allowed to change their vehicles after 120 000 kilometres 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 1 April, 2013.
This means a premier may use a vehicle costing R1 321 820.
An entry level Range Rover costs R1 501 678.