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Durban - Former agriculture and environmental affairs MEC, Meshack Radebe, left the department with a questionable legacy after claims that he had spent about R4 million on vehicles over the past four years.
Radebe was removed from the provincial executive this week and made deputy speaker of the provincial legislature.
Drafted by head of department Yasmin Bacus, his spending on vehicles was revealed in the department’s reply to questions by the DA.
Radebe, who took over the department three years ago, said the vehicles had been bought for his office’s staff.
In 2011, R1.4 million was spent on five vehicles: two Toyota Corollas; a Toyota Hilux; a Jeep Grand Cherokee; and a VW Golf 6 GTI. Last year, the department spent more than R833 000 on an Audi A3 FSI and two VW Amarok TDI vehicles. This year, more than R591 000 was used to purchase two VW GTIs.
The R4m included a BMW X5 of R869 618 and a VW Polo of R129 298 for the head of department.
The DA spokesman on agriculture, Francois Rodgers, said: “This expenditure was alarming because if you compare similar departments, the department of agriculture has spent three times more than arts and culture and finance, who each spent only R1.5 million.”
Rodgers said most of the vehicles were not suitable for agricultural duties. Radebe said some of the vehicles had been assigned to his office’s messengers, communication officers and other support staff.
Radebe denied ever using state vehicles, even when carrying out official duties.
“I used my personal vehicles to avoid controversy. I paid from my own pocket to service and put petrol in my vehicles.”
He said the ministry’s office had a large support staff, which needed vehicles to execute their duties.
“Remember, the department keeps expanding and we had to employ more staff. We did not just buy those vehicles. We had to follow process and policies,” he said.
He said the DA raised the matter because it was always critical of the government.
Rodgers said: “There can be no doubt that Radebe has left the province’s agriculture department in tatters. “During his time in Agriculture, R1 billion is alleged to have been looted from the department’s coffers, while as MEC for social development, Radebe’s department also lost hundreds of millions.”
The DA expected him to justify the purchase of every vehicle, said Rodgers. “We also expect the premier to demand such an explanation.”
Radebe accused people who depend on social grants, but voted for opposition parties, of stealing from the government.
The comments were made on the campaign trail in Greytown.
He said if President Jacob Zuma gave him a chance to act as president, he would “deal” with opposition parties.
IFP MPL Blessed Gwala said: “The MEC and office of the premier have no capacity to curb corruption even when it is right under their noses.”