If eThekwini deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala had her way, she would be chauffeured around in a top-of-the-range armoured Mercedes-Benz for her safety as the city’s second citizen.
But instead, the city had opted for a less flashy vehicle, she said.
The eThekwini municipality has come under fire for buying two luxury Toyota Prados for Shabalala and Speaker Logie Naidoo after two vehicles in the mayoral fleet were written off.
The DA wants Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate if the vehicles – believed to have cost the municipality R1.5 million – constitute wasteful expenditure.
On Wednesday Shabalala said: “If we had been consulted about what needs to be in the car maybe we would have not even chosen the Toyota Prados. If it was me who was supposed to take the decision I was going to say my safety as the second citizen of the city must be a priority.”
Shabalala, who is believed to be a member of the SA Communist Party, said the car she would “love” to use would have been the top of the range Mercedes-Benz S500.
“But we did not take that decision because that car is armoured and is bullet-proof which is very safe. So choosing the Prado shows our aim is not to have the luxury of driving around in beautiful cars but to reach communities in the mud areas of Umbumbulu, Magabheni and KwaXimba,” she said.
Shabalala said there were no extras in the new vehicle. When she had tuned in to listen to a debate on the radio about the city’s new mayoral fleet she had learnt that the car was fitted with a cooler box and not a fridge as it had been “exaggerated by the DA”.
The Mercury established that the Mercedes-Benz S 500L retails between R1.2m to R1.4m while an armoured Mercedes-Benz S 600L costs R6.8m.
Mayor James Nxumalo said one of the cars in the mayoral fleet was old and had a mileage of more than 400 000km.
“I have experienced three breakdowns while being driven in one of the vehicles… On two occasions I was on the freeway. If the price of these vehicles is an issue and the debate is around that then we can even use the Toyota Tazz…” he said.
Nxumalo said the public could also suggest the make and model of vehicle they preferred office-bearers to use.
DA caucus leader Tex Collins said there was no way his party would authorise such “excessive” spending for vehicles.
“It’s not our fault that [the deputy mayor] suffers from an idea that she will be assassinated. The council will provide security for her if need be… Shabalala is just pushing the boundaries,” he said.
Minority Front councillor Patrick Pillay said the city should be implementing economic austerity measures… Ultimately it’s the ratepayers’ money that is being used and ratepayers will never support such luxurious vehicles for office-bearers,” he said.
Lilian Develing of the Combined Ratepayers’ Association said councillors were elected to work for their constituencies and not fleece them.
“There are old people doing without food and medicine because their rates and water bills are too high…
“Wanting luxury vehicles is insensitive when the city doesn’t even have a clean audit report,” she said.