Bitou mayor defends his spending
Bitou mayor Peter Lobese has labelled recent criticism of his spending habits a smear campaign by detractors.
He came under fire in recent weeks after claims about “exorbitant” expenditure on a mayoral vehicle and personal security came to light.
It was claimed that Lobese spent about R60 000 and R200 000 per month on these respectively.
Questions and several follow-ups by Knysna-Plett Herald about the expenses did not elicit a response from the mayor’s office before going to print in both cases. Lobese said the failure to respond by the officials in question will be investigated.
During a candid interview this week, the mayor stated that these claims were warped and an attempt to “destroy my reputation”.
“I’ve been working for the municipality for 12 years now and have a clean record.
It is also this good reputation which led the people of Bitou to put their trust in me and now there are some who want to destroy this,” Lobese said.
About the R60 000 per month expense for a Volvo SUV, Lobese explained that on the day of his inauguration he showed up at the council chambers in his sister’s Volkswagen Polo. “Once I was given the mayoral chain, I was also given the keys to a vehicle, a Jeep. I never asked for this and never knew what I was getting. This was procured by the previous council’s municipal manager,” Lobese said.
He immediately said that the vehicle “was too big and expensive” and needed to “go back”, he explained. Thereafter he was given a Toyota Fortuner. According to Lobese, both these had been short-term leases while the procurement for an official mayor vehicle was under way.
Once completed, Lobese was handed the keys to a BMW 320i, which he said cost about R15 000 to R18 000. “This was the first vehicle since taking up office I agreed to,” he said.
Prompted by an accident
In June this year, however, the mayor and his driver were in an accident in Port Elizabeth where he was attending the funeral of his nephew. The vehicle was extensively damaged and had to be replaced. “We suffered post-traumatic stress as a result of the accident and was told that a safe and stable car would help deal with this, while we waited for the insurance settlement for the damaged vehicle. I was told a Volvo was one of the safest cars in the world at the moment and therefore the Volvo was leased.”
He added that his was procured on a short-term basis, but that the insurance investigation into the accident took longer than expected and the lease had to be extended.
Lobese said that on 16 October the matter was settled, the Volvo’s lease was terminated and he received the keys to another BMW 320i – again on a long-term lease, similar to the previous BMW.
Bitou’s mayor was also criticised for spending more than R100 000 on home security and tens of thousands on “bodyguards” and other security measures – despite an assessment revealing that his life was not under threat.
Lobese said he has made several unpopular decisions since taking over the position as mayor, including the termination of his coalition with the ANC and ending what he describes “corrupt tenders”. He said he believes this has led to bitterness among some and that he has even received death threats.
Initially the municipality, under the ANC coalition, approved protection at his home, he said, but he later decided on a cheaper company to do the job. This amounted to R106 020 a month for armed security at his Kwanokuthula home.
About bodyguards, Lobese said his protection detail was not as a result of a private contract. He said he decided to second three employees from internal law enforcement to do the job. These individuals, he said, were only receiving their normal salaries, with a few added benefits including overtime and for the risk that comes with providing protection services. Lobese said this decision was motivated by saving money for the municipality.
Bitou mayor Peter Lobese