Despite Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan pegging the cost of new cars for ministers at R750‚000, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and his deputy have just bought themselves new cars with taxpayer money — at double the price recommended by the government.
Reports have it that the controversial minister just splashed out an R1.35 million on a Mercedes-Benz S400 in February while his deputy Godfrey Oliphant purchased a Porsche Cayenne costing an estimated R1.33 million in November 2106.
It is understood that the vehicle used by Zwane’s predecessor Ngoako Ramatlhodi – now the public service and administration minister – was older than five years and had done more than 200,000 km.
The National Treasury ‘s spokesperson Martin Madlala, however, clarified that Zwane was granted permission by the Treasury to purchase vehicles for himself and Oliphant outside of the allocated range because the National Treasury’s current transversal contract did not offer the cars they preferred.
Much like Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Des van Rooyen, Zwane was widely believed to be the president’s point man.
When Zuma plucked him from obscurity as Free State agriculture MEC and appointed the minister of mineral resources last September, many saw it as a way of solidifying the Gupta family’s relationship with Zuma.
The controversial family has an interest in mining and is said to be very close to Zwane and President Zuma. His close ties with the family could be traced back to 2013 when he played a role in the private jet carrying guests for a Gupta wedding at Sun City landing at Air Force Base Waterkloof.
Recently, Zwane has been slammed for not doing enough to help families affected by the Lily Mine accident and subsequent bankruptcy.
He also played a major role in a controversial Gupta-linked dairy project in Vrede in the Free State, which the office of the Public Protector is yet to probe.
In carrying out his parliamentary assignment, Zwane has not been representing his department ‘faithfully’.
According to a Business Day report in 2016, Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has the poorest parliamentary attendance record of all Cabinet ministers. Records from the People’s Assembly Service showed Zwane was registered absent for 31 committee meetings.
Last year, he called for a judicial inquiry into South African banks that severed business ties with the Gupta family. He boldly alleged that he had Cabinet support for the proposal.
Zwane was later reprimanded by Cabinet members, including President Zuma for misleading the public on the matter.
In a strongly worded disclaimer, Zuma said: “Zwane does not speak on behalf of Cabinet and the contents of his statement do not reflect the position or views of Cabinet, the presidency or government.
The unfortunate contents of the statement and the inconvenience and confusion caused by the issuing thereof are deeply regretted.”
Mr Zwane’s involvement in politics started in the early 1980s as a member of the Thembelihle Youth Congress. He is a member of the African National Congress (ANC) who subsequently joined the ANC’s Thembelihle branch.
He is one of the founding members of the first ANC branch in Roadside in the Free State, where he taught at a farm school.
He has also served as secretary of the ANC’s regional executive committee (REC) in the then Frankfort region in the early 1990s before it was renamed the Thabo Mofutsanyana region following the amalgamation of local councils.
In 2006 Minister Mosebenzi Zwane became chairperson of the REC in the Thabo Mofutsanyana region.