Within days of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announcing the imposition of austerity measures on all government departments, the police spent nearly R3.7-million on luxury cars for President Jacob Zuma’s wives.
In response to a parliamentary question, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said R8.6-million from the police budget had been spent on 11 luxury vehicles for the president’s wives – Bongi Ngema, Nompumelelo “MaNtuli” Zuma, Thobeka Madiba Zuma and Sizakele “MaKhumalo” Zuma – over the past three years.
The vehicles include four Range Rover SUVs bought in 2013, worth over R900,000 each; two Discovery Land Rovers bought in 2014 and worth over R600,000 each; and two Audi Q7s and three Audi A6s, valued at R600,000-R800,000 bought in March.
Gordhan announced his austerity budget, including guidelines to limit the value of vehicle purchases for political office bearers, on February 24.
The parliamentary response indicates that the five Audis were purchased on March 30.
Nhleko said the purchases were necessary “to provide comprehensive protection of VIP spouses”.
Earlier this month, Business Day reported that the presidential spousal unit’s budget – from the 2009-2010 financial year (when Zuma came into power) to the 2016-2017 financial year – had been R88-million.
The budget covers personal support staff, domestic and international air travel and accommodation for official visits approved by the president, cellphones for spouses and their secretaries, IT equipment such as laptops and printers, and a daily allowance for incidental expenses during official journeys.
Former Presidency spokesman Bongani Majola said at the time: “The national government, led by the Presidency, has embarked on cost-containment and austerity measures across all budget and expenditure items, including goods and services, transport and accommodation, and general procurement. This has also affected the spousal office, like all other units in the Presidency.”
The purchase of the vehicles is not from the spousal budget.
Police spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the money came from the police because its presidential protection unit was responsible for protecting all VIPS.
“Protection of the president’s wives also falls within this unit’s mandate.” The Presidential Handbook does not stipulate a limit on the cost of security measures for the president’s spouses, except to indicate that the costs are carried by the police.
Mulaudzi said the vehicles were for everyday use.
He said he did not know whether the latest cars would replace those purchased in 2013 or were in addition to those vehicles.
“Obviously we do not buy such cars every year. Cars are bought when they are no longer serviceable or out of service.
“We have lots of cars which have high mileage but are still in good condition and which are still utilised.”
He said the needs of the person for whom the vehicles were purchased determined the type of vehicles purchased.
“The decision is made by the police divisional commissioner responsible for operational issues. The national police commissioner has the final say.
“What I can say is that the type of vehicle is not decided by the person being transported.”
DA MP Zakhele Mbhele, who asked the parliamentary question, said the money could have funded 116 university students for a year, 38 students studying for a three-year degree or have put an additional 61 police officers on the streets for a year.
“Yet the president decided to spend this gigantic amount on lavish VIP vehicles for his wives. South Africa’s economy is in a dire state. The economy is bleeding jobs, while Zuma continues to bleed South Africans dry. It looks like a last-minute attempt to get a big splurge before the Treasury clamps down on spending . given the number of beneficiaries, the police should have looked at more affordable options,” Mbhele said.
Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement, said South Africans should “stop moaning” because they accepted a president with many wives.
“The maintenance was never going to be cheap if you have five wives . it’s a pain we can’t avoid because we accepted it [in parliament]. Now we must live with the consequences.”
He said Gordhan’s “loose” statement to tighten spending lacked boundaries.
EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Zuma used the Treasury as a “personal purse”.
Source: Times Live