PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS – The Plettenberg Bay Ratepayers’ Association is threatening the Bitou Municipality with legal action following the recent controversial acquisition process for vehicles for the mayor and his deputy – an expense that could cost residents R1,3-million.
It recently came to light that the majority of council voted to spend R700 000 on a three-year lease for a new vehicle for Mayor Peter Lobese and extend the lease on the deputy mayor’s vehicle.
The new Bitou mayoral car lease also extends over a three-year period, despite there only being a year left in Lobese’s term as mayor.
The move has since seen massive criticism from residents who even started a petition calling on the mayor to obtain a cheaper vehicle and use the rest of the money to feed the thousands of Bitou residents who are unable to put food on the table as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.
The resolution was proposed by chief financial officer Vincent Mkhefa, who stated that the acquisitions would be “in line with the new cost-containment regulations”.
This statement was however contested by the ratepayers’ association’s chair, Peter Gaylard. “The upper limits of councillors’ remuneration schedule has since 2015 closed the loophole by which motor vehicles were treated as ‘tools of the trade’,” he said.
“The so-called cost-containment regulations are irrelevant. Now a councillor, including the mayor, may only utilise a municipal vehicle in ‘exceptional circumstances’ and ‘upon good cause shown’, and subject to approval of the mayor or Speaker. Clearly the provision of a car for regular use is not permitted. Daily trips back and forth to the council chamber are anything but exceptional.”
Gaylard said they have since written to the municipality to warn them of the issue and that if they continue to pursue the vehicle acquisition, the association would turn to the court for relief.
It is not the first time Lobese faces criticism over his mayoral vehicle. In 2017, there was a backlash after it came to light that ratepayers were forking out almost R60 000 a month for a luxury Volvo SUV for the mayor.
This followed after Lobese was involved in an accident in his previous mayoral vehicle, a luxury BMW. At the time, larger municipalities like George and Knysna were paying only a fraction of the price (between R13 000 and R24 000) for mayoral vehicles.
Municipal spokesman Andile Namntu was asked to comment on the matter, but had not responded before going to print.