THE TWO cabinet ministers who bought luxury cars for their Pretoria and Cape Town offices, using millions of taxpayers' money, were within their right to do so.
Last week the DA raised a stink about the fact that Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda had bought two BMWs 750i at a cost of more than R2million.
The DA decried the fact that Nyanda's cars were fitted with extras, including a rear-seat entertainment centre costing about R150000.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga also suffered the DA's wrath for buying a Range Rover Sport and a BMW 730D, both costing R1,7million.
Nyanda and Motshekga's offices yesterday explained that the ministers were within their rights to buy the luxury cars.
Motshekga's office also explained that she did not inherit an official vehicle in Pretoria as the vehicle of the former minister of education in Pretoria was allocated to new Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.
"The government transport scheme for political office bearers prescribes that a minister is entitled to a vehicle for official use that is worth not more than 70percent of his-her annual salary package.
"This rule applies to each of the minister's offices - in Pretoria and Cape Town.
"The prescribed value includes whatever additional accessories might come with a vehicle," said Nyanda's spokesperson, Tiyani Rikhotso.
Ministers get an annual remuneration package of R1612053 a year.
A 70percent allowance for each car suggests a minister should purchase a vehicle costing not more than R1128437.
Nyanda's two vehicles cost R1091050 each and the department chose a lease agreement that will see it paying 30percent less than the actual purchase price.
Both Motshekga's vehicles cost R1,7million. Her spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi said she qualified for a R2,4million loan for the two cars and saved taxpayers more than R500000.
"The official vehicle for the minister in Cape Town would have become five years old in August 2009 and in consultation with the Department of Basic Education it was decided to replace the vehicle.
"The BWM 730D was acquired as an official vehicle for the minister in Cape Town, as per the applicable rules, and it was purchased without any extras.
"Again the cost of the vehicle was well below the amount she qualifies for," said Lesufi.
Both Nyanda and Motshekga's offices have accused the DA of "cheap political point-scoring" and an attempt by the opposition and the media to create an impression that President Jacob Zuma's cabinet ministers have a fetish for extravagant lifestyles at the expense of the taxpayers.
The DA yesterday still questioned whether it was "prudent" to replace the cars at such cost with the country in recession.
"The ministerial handbook does allow it but we are saying government should send the right message," said the DA's Lindiwe Mazibuko.
Cope spokesperson Phillip Dexter said the ministers' car allowances were too much.
"We are suggesting that the government negotiate a fleet deal for ministers and subscribe a standard vehicle for all ministers," Dexter said.