The two luxury Toyota Prados bought for the eThekwini municipality deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala and Speaker Logie Naidoo cost hundreds of thousands each.

While the rest of the world might be preaching economic austerity, Durban’s deputy mayor and Speaker are travelling in style after two luxury Land Cruisers were added to the municipal fleet.

eThekwini municipality on Tuesday night confirmed that it had acquired two luxury Toyota Prados for deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala and Speaker Logie Naidoo after two other vehicles in the mayoral fleet were written off.

However, municipal spokesman Thabo Mofokeng failed to respond to questions about the price of the vehicles.

“It must also be noted that eThekwini is made up of both urban and rural areas,” he said.

The DA said it would ask Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate if this was a case of wasteful expenditure because the cars are believed to have cost the city R1.5m.

Councillor Dean Macpherson said one vehicle was a Toyota Prado VX and the other a Toyota Prado TX.

Macpherson said the new vehicles were a slap in the face for the municipality’s poorest residents who did not have access to housing and other basic services as a result of fraud, corruption and limited budgets.

“Such luxury and opulence is simply not justifiable in the midst of the service delivery protests and rates increases that the city has faced over recent times,” said Macpherson.

The cars would have been delivered earlier but as a result of the tsunami in Japan they were severely delayed, he said.

Exco members contacted by The Mercury confirmed that while they should have had a say in whether or not the cars were purchased they were not aware of it and such a report had not appeared before the committee.

The Municipal Finance Management Act’s circular 58, released in December 2011, says municipalities have been warned to pay special attention to controlling unnecessary spending on “nice-to-have items and non-essential activities”.

This, according to the circular, includes excessive councillor and staff perks such as lu-xurious mayoral cars and houses, notebooks, iPads and cellphone allowances; travel and subsistence allowances.

Macpherson said the DA would ask the public protector to investigate if there was a justified case of wasteful expenditure against city manager S’bu Sithole, who was the municipality’s chief financial officer.

Gerald Ramjuthan, a sales executive at Toyota Kingsmead, said the Toyota Prado VX was the top-of-the-range vehicle which retailed at R714 000 in petrol and R708 200 in diesel.

The Toyota Prado TX, considered the entry-level vehicle, retailed for R606 400 in diesel and R613 600 in petrol.

Ramjuthan said the cost of a VX like the one apparently given to the deputy mayor which was fitted with a sunroof, a cooler box between the front seats and cameras on the two rear-view mirrors, front grille and extra tyre, as well as a satellite navigation system, could range between R718 200 and R724 000, depending on the type of fuel it used.

In contrast to the fancy cars acquired for Shabalala and Naidoo, further afield in the province, Greytown mayor Philani Mavundla last year turned down several council perks including a mayoral car.

At the time, he said that the municipality could not afford the kind of car he drove and that it would be unfair to ask the council to buy him an “armoured car”.

Last year, the City Press also reported that Western Cape Premier Helen Zille drove the oldest and cheapest car in her province, getting around in a 2003 Mercedes-Benz E320, with a market value of R154 350. - The Mercury