With the news over the weekend that South Africa’s government is once again considering a budget cutback for ministerial cars and travel, everyone is wondering just how much money is spent on cars and what kind of cars ministers drive.
The reports about eye-watering amounts of money being splashed on luxury vehicles is nothing new. As far back as 2011, there have been threats that the budget allocation for fancy cars will be trimmed, but it’s never actually happened.
In 2009, when the issue was also raised, then Minister of Public Service and Administration Richard Baloyi, defended the amount of money spent on cars. Though he said it was a “concern” he noted that ministers ” needed to be highly mobile and have the right kind of car that would be able to reach rural areas and last at least 120 000km or the length of their five-year term”.
A report released in 2017 by South Africa’s main opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA) claimed that R42 million on luxury vehicles for ministers and their deputies between 2014 and 2017.
MPs are given a tidy allowance for the purchasing of private vehicles as well as ministerial vehicles.
In 2018, Africa Check reported the amount allocated for official duties to be as follows:
Ministers and deputy ministers are allowed to purchase one car for official use in Pretoria as well as one in Cape Town.
The value of each vehicle cannot be more than 70% of their salary. At the current salary determinations, a minister could
thereforebuy two cars to the value of R1.68 million each. (Note: Spending on official cars had been curbed in October 2013 by thenMinister of Finance Pravin Gordhan – to a suggested cap of R600 000 – but it is unclear whether it is being applied. Gordhan’s cost-cutting measures were approved by cabinet and also included putting an end to first class travel as well as cancelling government credit cards.)
With the rumblings that the gravy train might finally be drained, let’s take a look at some of the preferred cars of the country’s MPs. These vehicles and their cost are all taken from the report published by the DA back in 2017. The ministers noted were in the positions listed then.
In pictures: The wheels of government
Note: The document published by the DA back in 2017 does not include the year model of the purchased vehicle and some of the photos here might be the newest model, not the one that was owned by the minister at the time. Costs have been kept as noted in 2017, though.
SUV models are the most favoured amongst ministers. And while nobody is saying politicians can’t have nice things, it’s the context that matters here. With an economy constantly in flux and the vast majority of South Africans living in poverty, do ministers really need to drive cars that cost over R800 000? Below, we are using the data from the report currently available in the public domain.
A total of 12 ministers were named in the DA’s report as having opted for an Audi model. Eight (Buti Manamela, Naledi Pandor, Siyabonga Cwele, Mohamed Enver Surty, Tokozile Xasa, Blade Nzimande, Gugile Nkwinti, Senzeni Zokwana) bought a Q7 with the A6, A7 and A8 also popular choices.
The make and model of the Q7 differed, with Nzimande opting for the cheaper version of just over R680 000 at the time while Xasa, now minister of sport, but
Less popular than the Audi option, nine ministers were listed as having bought a Merc.
The models ranged from the ML350 (two of those in the case of Mcebisi Skwatsha) costing just under R1 million to the E400 for Mosebenzi Zwane, costing a cool R1.2 million. Zwane was minister of the department of
From different models in the 5 Series to the 335GT and X5, X6, the BMW bill was pretty eye watering. Susan Shabangu’s R926 000 GT550 and Thulas Nexi’s X5 costing over R918 000 were the most expensive. Malusi Gigaba went for a BMW 535i Sedan, costing just over R750 000.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee in all its variations was the only choice for ministers, but the cost of these varied. Xasa’s second car on the list cost just over R762 000 while Bheki Cele bought two of them, both for just over R622 000.
The Lexus models also varied greatly in price. Hlengiwe Mkhize, for example, spent just under R438 000 on her Lexus ES250 (she also bought a Cherokee for just over R637 000) while Dipuo Peters went all out, spending over R1 million on a Lexus LX570.
Just one minister, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, opted for a Ford Everest, costing R714 500.
Both the Fortuner and the Lexus were favoured options, all of them cost less than R470 000. See, it’s possible to have a car that’s useful and doesn’t cost a fortune.
The Touareg, costing just under R710 000 was Jeremy Cronin’s ride of choice.
But, of the all the vehicles that made it on to the list, it was the Porsche
As already noted, though, it’s important to remember that these purchases were all made by the book. Ministers simply pushed the limits to the extent of what was prescribed to them.
Whether those rules are the “right” or “fair” in a country as unequal as South Africa is another matter.
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