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KZN MEC's Mercedes explanation raises more questions than answers

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for education Kwazi Mshengu gets into a hired car that costs taxpayers in the province more than R100,000 a month.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for education Kwazi Mshengu gets into a hired car that costs taxpayers in the province more than R100,000 a month.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

KwaZulu-Natal MEC of education Kwazi Mshengu took his “faulty” Mercedes-Benz to a dealership for a check-up three days after the Sunday Times exposed his use of a R100,000-a-month hired car.

Mercedes-Benz SA revealed that Mshengu's car was taken to the Garden City Motors dealership in Pietermaritzburg only last Wednesday — six months after the MEC was advised not to use the vehicle by his officials.  

It is not clear who at Mercedes-Benz had advised his office that the car was not safe before last Wednesday as the German car maker distanced itself from a letter Mshengu's office claimed was from Mercedes-Benz SA.

Corporate affairs manager for Mercedes-Benz SA Thato Mntambo said “on November 13 2019, the vehicle was brought in to Garden City Motors' Pietermaritzburg dealership, with several complaints”. 

Mntambo confirmed that an independent investigator was appointed to conduct an investigation into the complaints.

She also confirmed that Mercedes-Benz SA offered the department of education a courtesy vehicle while the investigation was undertaken.

“The investigation revealed that the vehicle had suffered damage due to external influence; which damage is specifically excluded from cover under the Mercedes-Benz warranty and premium drive maintenance plan.

“Based on the above, the warranty & premium drive maintenance contract has been cancelled until such time that the vehicle is repaired to Mercedes-Benz standards,” Mntambo explained.

It is not known what kind of damage was discovered — which was not picked up when the car was taken to the dealership last month with a flat battery.

Sources at Mercedes told TimesLIVE that they were not “allowed to touch the car”.

On Thursday, the department released a statement stating that following the latest developments, “the incumbent MEC has since written to the premier of the province of KwaZulu-Natal to seek advice on how to best handle this matter considering the latest developments henceforth.

“In the meantime, the head of department of education in KwaZulu-Natal continues to pursue the matter with all officials who were given the responsibility to attend to the issue of the official vehicle for the MEC.”

Spokesperson for the MEC Kwazi Mthethwa told TimesLIVE that the official vehicle was taken for a second assessment in October.

Previously a Sunday Times investigation revealed that the “damaged” car was towed to Garden City Motors on October 30, after murmurings started about Mshengu's refusal to use the car. Insiders at the dealership said the vehicle had no mechanical faults when it came in last month, except for a  flat battery.

Mthethwa could not say exactly when the first assessment took place.  

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