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'A Merc for doing his job?'

2009-05-19 08:00

Thando Mgaga

Durban - Public interest organisations joined the call on Monday for newly appointed Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele to return the R1.1m Mercedes-Benz he received as a gift from contractors.

Head of Media and Advocacy in the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), Derek Luyt asked: "Why on earth are politicians given gifts for doing their jobs?"

He said that if Cabinet members receive gifts valued at more than R1 000 they have to ask for permission to accept them from the president and declare the gifts to the Cabinet committee.

Ndebele received the gift from emerging contractors Vukuzakhe.

Head of Political Information and Monitoring in the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA), Judith February, said Ndebele's gift has a potential for a conflict of interest.

She said given that Ndebele is transport minister, the Vukuzakhe contractors will in future tender for the jobs outsourced by his department.

Wrong impression

"It will be best for Ndebele to return the car. If he doesn't, a situation will be created where people would get the impression that the (Vukazakhe) contractors got the tender because of the gift," said February.

The DA, IFP and Cope have also urged Ndebele to return the vehicle.

KZN spokesperson for the Congress of the People Siyanda Mhlongo, said that Ndebele, like all ministers, will get a monthly car allowance.

Mhlongo questioned whether is it greed or a culture of consumerism that made him accept the R1.1m gift.

Ndebele said that over the last few months, he has been congratulated by several individuals and organisations for his contribution as both transport MEC and premier, among those were the beneficiaries of the Vukuzakhe programme.

He said that the contractors approached him before the 2009 elections and sought a date where they could hold a function in his honour, but advised them to hold it till after the elections as he was busy with election campaigns.

No one knew of new portfolio

"I attended the function on (Saturday)... I was really shocked when they presented me with an S-500 Mercedes-Benz... I must emphasise, I never knew about these gifts, never solicited them and never expected them.

"In addition, when this whole function was mooted by the emerging contractors, nobody knew where I was going or whether I would be appointed minister of transport," added Ndeble.

He said that he has sought guidance from the presidency, secretary of Cabinet and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on how to handle a gift of such magnitude.

"I would also want to state that we do not have any personal or private financial or business interest with the Vukuzakhe emerging contractor programme which would constitute any conflict of interest on our part," said Ndebele.

Opposition parties said that if Ndebele accepts the gift he would be contravening legislation and a code of ethics for Cabinet members.

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