Government department forks out R14,000 per day for BMW hire

 ·20 Feb 2017

The sector education and training authority for agriculture (AgriSETA) blew nearly R42,000 to rent a luxury vehicle for its acting chairperson for a period of just three days.

Thami ka Plaatjie, a former secretary general of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) who joined the ANC in 2011, requested the vehicle for a road trip in October 2016.

News24 received documents in its tip-offs inbox that include an “authorisation for internal travel” request submitted on Ka Plaatjie’s behalf.

The AgriSETA staff member who filled in the form wrote that Ka Plaatjie would be “meeting with [the] minister, [attend] Agriculture’s event and [meet with] Prof Mayende.”

Seeing as the SETAs fall under the control of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the document is likely referring to DHET minister Blade Nzimande and his department.

DHET spokesperson Busiswa Nongogo, however, said the department has “no recollection of the minister being part of the alleged meeting”.

The request form also shows that the acting chairperson stayed at the Southern Sun hotel in Bloemfontein and at the Premier Hotel in East London during the three days he was on the road.

‘Mercedes, pls’

The staff member had also written “Mercedes, pls” next to the section on the form where details about car hire need to be filled in.

It is not clear whether the AgriSETA paid for the hotel expenses or what these expenses may have amounted to, but the documents in our possession show the AgriSETA paid a local travel agency an amount of R41,775.42 for a BMW X5 used by Ka Plaatjie for his travels.

According to the travel agency’s bill, Ka Plaatjie drove a distance of 2,045km between 18 and 21 October last year in the rented vehicle. This corresponds with the distance Ka Plaatjie would have travelled if he drove to East London from Johannesburg, and back again, via Bloemfontein.

News24 has sent a list of queries to the AgriSETA to obtain information on the purpose of Ka Plaatjie’s trip, and why he didn’t instead fly.

On Monday, Caren Cleinwerck, the entity’s marketing co-ordinator, confirmed receipt of our queries. “I acknowledge receipt of your email and have forwarded [it] to the relevant party to respond, specifically the CEO, Mr Jerry Madiba,” Cleinwerck said in an email.

The AgriSETA, however, did not respond to our queries.

According to the websites of several local airlines, the trip would have cost the AgriSETA around R6,500 if Ka Plaatjie rather flew instead of driving.

Not enough money

The AgriSETA has a mandate to promote education, training and skills development among South Africans who work in or who intend to work in the agriculture sector. Like other SETAs, the AgriSETA is largely dependent on the mandatory contributions of companies and other employers.

According to the AgriSETA’s latest annual report, the organisation is of the opinion that it does not have enough money to reach all its goals.

“Revenue collection and also the identification of new revenue streams remains a huge challenge for the Finance department supported by my office. Our business operations cover a very big and critical sector of our economy . . . yet the revenue from levies deducted . . . is very minimal compared to other SETAs due to a low wage bill in the economic sector,” wrote CEO Jerry Madiba in the 2015-16 annual report.

Ka Plaatjie, who did not answer his phone or respond to queries emailed to him, has earned a bit of a reputation as an author of controversial open letters.

In 2014, Ka Plaatjie, in a letter published by the Sunday Independent, lashed out at former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela following the completion of her report on President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence

“You impugn that the president veers away from accountability and responsibility in relation to the Nkandla matter and thus you appoint yourself as the conscience of the nation. The victories you have attained in recent times have surely warped your mind. The fact that you released your report on Nkandla just before the election was also indicative of the extent to which you have become political,” Ka Plaatjie had written.



Read: Why does the budget include R10 million for new luxury cars for ministers?

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