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Top cop’s state-funded luxury cars

Thirteen luxury vehicles worth R7.4-million, all “irregularly” bought with state money, form part of controversial Mpumalanga top cop Lieutenant General Mondli Zuma’s expensive fleet of cars.

Zuma allegedly flouted standing South African Police Service (SAPS) instructions, which were issued in 2015, that provincial commissioners, as well as other middle-management personnel, could only procure one vehicle at the state’s expense.

The Mail & Guardian has seen internal Mpumalanga SAPS documents that show that Zuma went on a spending spree from 2017 to this year, purchasing 12 cars. 

He was appointed as the provincial commissioner of Mpumalanga in February 2016. 

Besides the BMW 335i, which was bought in 2011 for R453 291.15 by retired Lieutenant General Thulani Ntobela, the other 12 opulent vehicles were bought by Zuma. 

These included BMWs, an Audi, a Land Rover and a VW Caravelle T6, all totalling a cool R7 438 168.18. 

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A BMW 320i, which was bought this year for R501 000, is allegedly used by Zuma’s personal assistant. Sources have also claimed that the provincial commissioner’s family members also have unlawful access to the state vehicles. 

Documents show that the vehicles are registered as state property, but are for Zuma’s use. 

These revelations come in the wake of the M&G’s report last month that Zuma was allegedly involved in an elaborate cover-up after one of his BMW X5s had crashed in June this year and would cost the state R181 863.10 to repair. 

The cover-up allegations stem from the understanding that a SAPS driver “was called and arrived with General [Frans] Mashika, who drove the provincial commissioner back to Nelspruit [Mbombela] and plotted as if the vehicle was driven by [Zuma’s] driver”.

This was according to highly placed sources, who alleged that Zuma had used the BMW for private functions, which is against regulations. 

Last month police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo denied the cover-up but confirmed that the crash had happened and that an investigation was ongoing. 

This week, the M&G spoke to Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi about contacting Zuma. Hlathi said questions should be sent to both him and Naidoo, but left it to Naidoo to provide the answers. 

Naidoo said this week that the vehicles that the M&G had enquired about were not procured for any individual, but were all properties of the state. 

“Procurement of such vehicles is not unique to the Mpumalanga province; there are other provincial commissioners who have also procured such vehicles. Just like other provinces, Mpumalanga has these vehicles for special projects and operations,” Naidoo said. 

However, insiders, who spoke to the M&G on condition of anonymity, said Zuma was engaged in alleged wasteful expenditure because the SAPS had instructed senior and middle managers to only procure one vehicle that would be funded by taxpayers.

“This guy (Zuma) has a fleet of cars, which he allows other people to drive, including employees close to him. The directive made it clear that a person at his level can only purchase one vehicle, but Zuma is on a spending spree,” said a source. 

Another insider claimed that it was “obvious” that Zuma was “courting controversy and refused to follow the law, judging from the string of legal problems he has been involved in from his days in KwaZulu-Natal”. 

The sources’ contentions stem from an internal national SAPS instruction of 2015 that was amended by a “consolidation notice” of 2017, the purpose of which was “to regulate the vehicle scheme for senior and middle managers”.

The document, which the M&G has seen, instructs officers that they “may purchase, lease, rent or otherwise obtain a new or reliable pre-owned vehicle”.

“The South African Revenue Service made provision for the following circumstances in which an official state vehicle may be used for private purposes by officials mentioned above: The nature of the abovementioned functionaries’ duties are such that they are regularly required to use the official state vehicle for the performance of those duties outside normal hours of work.

“The functionaries are not permitted to use such motor vehicles for private purposes other than travelling between his or her place of residence and his or her place of work; or private use which is infrequent or is merely incidental to his or her duties,” the document reads. 

Naidoo did not answer detailed questions regarding whether or not Zuma had flouted SAPS regulations in purchasing more than one vehicle, as well as allegedly using them for private purposes.

Naidoo did, however, assert that the national police office was serious about rooting out wrongdoing by both its senior and junior officers. 

“The top management of the SAPS welcomes any tangible information and/or evidence which may warrant an investigation. You would have noticed in the recent past that the national commissioner [General Khehla Sitole] has been on record acting decisively against alleged corruption by members at all levels of the SAPS,” he said.

Peter Ntsime, the acting deputy general secretary of the South African Police Union (Sapu), said the organisation was not passing judgment on Zuma’s guilt, but called on national police commissioner Sitole to investigate the allegations.

“These allegations will compromise service delivery as already police officers are demoralised. We are also sensing that these allegations could be a source of instability in policing in Mpumalanga,” he said.

“Sapu is calling for a speedy and transparent investigation. If the allegations are true, disciplinary and criminal processes should ensue and if they are found to be untrue, the provincial commissioner should be given the space to perform his duty without any hindrance,” Ntsime said. 

Zuma was arrested in December 2008 and faced criminal charges for drunk driving, failing to stop, attempting to escape custody and defeating the ends of justice. He was acquitted of all charges in the Pietermaritzburg high court in January 2014. 

Zuma was prevented from becoming provincial commissioner in August 2013, mere hours after then SAPS top cop Riah Piyega had made the announcement, because of his court matter. 

In a separate incident in December 2015, Zuma paid an admission-of-guilt fine for losing his service pistol, which was taken after he had left it in his car with his laptop bag. 

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Khaya Koko
Khaya Koko is a journalist with a penchant for reading through legal documents braving the ravages of cold court benches to expose the crooked. He writes about social justice and human-interest stories. Most importantly, he is a card-carrying member of the Mighty Orlando Pirates.

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