Don’t talk about cars — Premier

2019-12-03 15:29
KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala.

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala.

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KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala has imposed a gag order on details around vehicles currently used by the provincial government’s MECs following the storm sparked by reports that Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu blew close to R100 000 a month on car rentals.

Several MECs, who were sent written questions by The Witness on the vehicles they were currently using, have declined to provide responses, saying they have been told the premier is the only person allowed to comment on vehicle-related matters.

“I have been advised that a response to this query on official vehicles for MECs will come as a single response from the Office of the Premier. So, it is advisable that you liaise with the Office of the Premier in this regard,” one of the MEC’s responses said.

The MECs had, amongst other things, been requested to indicate whether they were using their own personal vehicles or hired vehicles in execution of their official duties.

This followed reports that Mshengu, who was appointed in May, had so far blown close to R500 000 on car rental.

Zikalala’s office has confirmed that the premier is currently handling all media queries around the MEC’s vehicles. “To avoid this matter of vehicles being answered in dribs and drabs, a decision has been taken that departments should forward details of MEC vehicles to the Premier’s Office, which will soon release the details to the public,” KZN provincial government spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said.

While Mshengu had maintained that the department’s officials resolved to hire vehicles for him after faults were detected in the car he inherited from his predecessor, Mthandeni Dlungwane, there were claims that the MEC did not want to use the car because Dlungwane was his political rival.

In bid to justify the decision to hire vehicles for Mshengu, the officials allegedly forged a letter from car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz.

According to the letter, the vehicle he had inherited from Dlungwane was not roadworthy.

Mshengu, who has since cancelled the car hire agreement and is now using his personal vehicle, has since revealed that using his own vehicle cost the department more than the R90 000 a month it had been paying for the hired cars. Depending on the size of the vehicle, MECs opting to use their vehicles can charge their respective departments anything between R10 to R14 a kilometre.

Given that MECs travel extensively across the province, the use of an MEC’s personal car can result in the department reimbursing them more than R120 000 a month.

DA provincial Education spokesperson Imran Keeka said while it was less costly for MEC to use government vehicles, various excuses were often put forward to justify the hiring of vehicles or the use of an MEC’s personal vehicle.

“Anecdotal evidence shows that the majority of MECs were using their personal vehicles, at a huge cost to the taxpayer,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  kzn premier

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