Purchase of luxury vehicles for ministers should not make headlines - deputy minister

Cape Town - The purchase of luxury vehicles for ministers should not be used as a "political football" or as "headlines", Deputy Communications Minister Thandi Mahabehlala said on Tuesday.

It came to light in last week's communications portfolio committee meeting that the Department of Communications intends to buy new vehicles for Mahambehlala and Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo. 

DA MP Phumzile van Damme said two new vehicles were expected to cost a minimum of R750 000 each.

"The department states that the two new cars will be purchased at a minimum of R750 000 per vehicle, but as history shows, members of the executive have a penchant for splurging R1 million and above on cars," Van Damme said at the time.

During Tuesday's meeting, in which the department lamented its financial constraints, Van Damme again raised the issue.

"In terms of cars, there are no cars bought by the department yet for us," Mahambehlala said.

"All cars I've inherited as deputy minister exceeded the mileage. The car in Cape Town exceeds 150 000 kms.

"The protectors are complaining it is not correct to drive these cars."

She said if she had to go to Beaufort West, the department would have to hire a car for her at great expense.

'Political football'

"This should not be a political football or headlines in the media."

Van Damme wasn't convinced. "If you say to the public a three-year-old car is not safe, they won't buy it. I don't buy it.

"In these tough economic times, everyone must tighten their belt. This department must set an example," Van Damme said.

A BMW X5 was budgeted for Dlodlo's predecessor, Faith Muthambi, in last year's adjustments budget. Muthambi and Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, former deputy minister of communications, also received new vehicles in the 2014-15 financial year, with a combined value of approximately R3.7 million.

The ministerial handbook allows ministers and their deputies two cars; one for use in Cape Town and the other for Pretoria.

Departments can purchase new vehicles after mileage of 120 000km or after five years, whichever happens first, and the price of the vehicles may not exceed 70% of the minister or deputy minister's total annual salary.

In March, answers to a series of parliamentary questions by the DA revealed that the state spent more than R40 million of vehicles for ministers and their deputies since 2014.

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