While thousands of ratepayers at the cash-strapped Inxuba Yethemba local municipality faced blackouts a week ago, its council went ahead and endorsed the purchase of two new executive cars at a cost of R1.2-million.
Mayor Ray Shweni confirmed that the municipality had bought a Ford Everest, which ranges between R460000 and R570000, recently. This is as the municipality negotiates with Eskom on how to settle a R440-million bill dating back to 2010.
Eleventh-hour negotiations involving provincial treasury led to the municipality’s power supply interruptions being averted in recent weeks.
Shweni, who is also in line to receive a new car, said he was using his private car which is not financed by council.
He confirmed to the Dispatch that he considered purchasing either a Volkswagen Tiguan, Chevrolet Captiva or Trailblazer by Chevrolet, which also cost between R400000 and half a million each.
The municipality, which covers small towns such as Cradock and Middleburg as well as farming areas, has a total population of about 65000, with about a quarter of this number being unemployed, according to 2011 Stats SA figures.
The town’s annual budget for this year is R305-million. The DA in the council accused the ANC-led council of having failed to prioritise the basic needs of the community. In a statement, the DA head of finance in council Handri Voster said councillors opted for opulence instead.
The mayor defended the cars purchases amid the electricity bill woes saying the R1.2-million had been ring-fenced for the cars since January.
“The municipality is small and has [a small] revenue base. But the cars form part of the tools of trade as councillors cannot be expected to hitch-hike to carry out council duties. The Ford Everest was bought using the RT57 which allows government to buy cars directly from manufacturers at reduced prices,” Shweni said.