TAXPAYERS will have to pay the R171000 bill for finance MEC Phumulo Masualle’s damaged vehicle, the Eastern Cape government revealed yesterday.
Masualle was involved in an accident last Thursday with his state-owned silver Mercedes-Benz ML, which had just returned from repairs the previous day.
The Daily Dispatch discovered that Masualle was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident, although provincial policy prohibits this.
Provincial transport department spokesman Ncedo Kumbaca said Masualle, who is also ANC provincial chairman, was not supposed to drive the vehicle as only VIP protection unit members could drive them.
“Departments procure these vehicles and permanently fit them with blue lamps and because of the fittings of the accessories, [MECs] are not allowed to drive for any reasonable purpose … [The vehicles should only] be driven by VIP protection unit members all the time,” Kumbaca said.
He said the provincial treasury department would decide who would pay for the insurance or damage.
Masualle’s office confirmed that the MEC was driving the vehicle. The MEC’s chief of staff, Fezeka Nkomonye, told the Dispatch that Masualle was rushing to a meeting.
“He was late and his protectors were also late, so he decided to drive himself. He had a meeting with premier Noxolo Kiviet, so he just could not be late,” Nkomonye said.
Provincial treasury department spokeswoman Nosisa Sogayise said it was an unfortunate “occurrence that the MEC has been involved in a car accident”.
“Given his punctuality and his consideration of time, he hoped to meet the bodyguard/driver in our provincial planning and treasury office in Norvia House, East London, hence he was driving,” she said.
“The MEC is a licensed driver and he holds the licence by law. The Ministerial Handbook allows members to utilise official vehicles allocated to them at the expense of the state for any reasonable purpose. State official vehicles and SAPS VIP drivers/protectors may be allocated to members and are made available for official purposes and in the interest of security.”
She added that damages to the car would cost the treasury department R2500 in excess fees.
“The Ministerial Handbook provides that the respective department will carry the financial implications in terms of procuring and insuring official vehicles.”
Masualle is not the first MEC to be involved in an accident while driving a state vehicle.
In March 2008, Sam Kwelita, the Eastern Cape opposition leader in the legislature and then social development MEC, was charged with culpable homicide after killing a pedestrian in a collision with his state vehicle outside King William’s Town on the road to Alice .
Last year, Kiviet was also stopped for speeding while driving on Settler’s Way, one of East London’s busiest roads.
Kiviet, who rarely takes the wheel and is usually driven around by a chauffeur, had allegedly been driving at 98km/h in a 60km/h speed zone .
Provincial government spokesman Manelisi Wolela was not available for comment. — email@example.com