Durban - The eThekwini council’s spending R3 million on a fleet of six new vehicles for the mayoral fleet has got the opposition all revved up.
They include three new BMWs (320i) for a total cost of just over R1m; a choice between a BMW 520d or Mercedes-Benz E200 Elegance costing in the region of R500 000; a Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland at nearly R600 000; and a Toyota Fortuner 3.0 costing just over R400 000.
While opposition parties are fuming at the need for so many luxury vehicles, deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala on Tuesday sought to justify the purchases. She said the cars would not only be used for mayor James Nxumalo, but also by councillors who would stand in for him at engagements he could not attend. The vehicles would also be used to chauffeur visiting dignitaries, she said.
The deputy mayor accused DA caucus leader, Zwakele Mncwango, who raised objections, of being ignorant of the need for them. “He is new in council, he doesn’t know f***l,” she said.
“I want one day for you to go to the Western Cape and be mayor there, you will see the need for these cars,” she told him earlier.
City manager, S’bu Sithole, applauded the mayor for buying “really modest” vehicles, saying they were significantly cheaper than what he was entitled to, according to requirements set by the national treasury.
Maintenance plans for the vehicles costing between R20 000 and R40 000 will be included.
The new fleet will replace six vehicles – a 2012 Toyota Prado which was written off in an accident in December 2012, four 2008 BMWs which have odometer readings of between 141 000km and 191 000km, and a 2001 Toyota Land Cruiser.
The DA agreed there was a need to buy two new cars for the mayor, but not six, describing it as a waste of money.
The car also has night vision technology, which can detect a large animal and pedestrians from 300m away.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland is equipped with HDMI connectivity, touch screen twin rear seat entertainment screens, heated seats and high definition radio.
Responding to Mncwango’s concern raised during Tuesday’s executive committee (exco) meeting that the mayor did not require six vehicles, and that luxury cars could be hired for delegations visiting the city, Shabalala disagreed.
She said even more cars were needed.
“You know that the city has sister-mayor relations with many cities in Africa.
“In September for the Celebrate Durban, we will invite our sister cities to come to Durban…,” she said.
“We need more cars to take our delegation around the city. We have to take care of them, that is protocol.”
Mncwango rejected the explanation and said those visits did not happen all the time.
Speaking to the Daily News after the meeting, Mncwango also questioned why councillors should be using the fleet when representing the mayor when they already had car allowances that required them to use their own vehicles.
He said most of the vehicles would be parked at the city hall to collect dust.
“We are spending R500 000 for a car to just park, and the argument about Gauteng (Ekurhuleni Metro Municipality) having many cars does not hold, he said.
“Because they are wasting money does not mean we must do the same. eThekwini has missed an opportunity to show strong leadership,” Mncwango said.
“And as a mayor who is a communist, the ideals should be to save money and put more for the poor. It is against the values of communism.”
How do other metros’ mayoral fleets compare?
City of Cape Town
* One Toyota Prius Hybrid
* One Mercedes-Benz C Class (1998 model)
* Three BMW 3 Series
Council has invited tenders for the purchase of one SUV for use in rural areas. The Toyota Prius was purchased recently, with the other cars about six years old.
City of Johannesburg
* One BMW 5 Series
* Two BMW 1 Series
Fleet is replaced every three years.
City of Tshwane
* Eight BMW 3 Series
Fleet replaced every five years.
Ekurhuleni Metro Municipality
* Eleven Audi A6 cars
* Four BMW 5 Series
* Six VW Golf 7
* Seven Nissan Pathfinders
* One Isuzu KB350 - Source: eThekwini Municipality