/ 29 October 2009

Manuel: Purchase of expensive car ‘not well-advised’

Minister Trevor Manuel on Wednesday conceded that buying a R1,2-million BMW for his official use was not well-advised.

Planning Commission Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel on Wednesday conceded that buying a R1,2-million BMW for his official use was not well-advised.

Manuel was asked about the car by Democratic Alliance chief whip Ian Davidson during question time in the National Assembly.

The DA has, over the past few weeks, highlighted the high cost of cars bought by Cabinet ministers, and has called for their return and the institution of new cost-saving measures.

”That the vehicle is expensive … I concede that it is an error of judgement,” Manuel told the House.

”I’ve run the numbers and the vehicle is now five months old. It has 6 700km on the clock, and vehicles depreciate very, very, very quickly, and in the current circumstance, probably would not find a buyer and be written down a lot more quickly.”

So, continuing to argue that the vehicles already bought by ministers be returned did not make economic sense, he said.

”Here is a decision that was taken within the rules [of the ministerial handbook]. I’m saying in my case it wasn’t entirely well-advised, but a decision was taken, and [it’s] one of those decisions that you live with.

”Finally, I’d like to say to the Honourable Davidson, that if he and his party work exceedingly hard, they will move from that side of the House to this side of the House and he might actually become the inheritor of this car.”

Thanking Manuel for his candid response, Davidson pointed out that Western Cape Premier Helen Zille was put into a ”similar position”. She and her provincial ministers could have gone out, according to the rules that pertained, and bought luxury vehicles.

”But she laid down right at the outset exactly what had to be done and they are all using pool cars, old cars with high mileage,” Davidson said.

Responding, Manuel explained he had ”walked into a place where there wasn’t an establishment” when he was appointed to head a new ministry.

”We needed to buy a vehicle, within the rules a vehicle was purchased.

”So, we’d all like to be more Catholic than the Pope, and we commend the Honourable Zille on having attained that status, but let’s be real about this issue as well,” he said. — Sapa