Council splurges R1.2m on luxury cars

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 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.

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