Taxpayers pay massive petrol bill for government’s VIP ‘blue light brigades’

 ·25 Apr 2024

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has spent over R42 million on petrol and diesel over the past six years for its VIP Protection alone, which works out to just over R583,000 per month.

This is according to a recent parliamentary Q&A, in which police minister Bheki Cele outlined the departments’ fuel spending for VIP protection services between 2018 and 2022 and between March 2023 and March 2024.

The VIP Protection Unit is an arm of the SAPS responsible for the static and in-transit protection of the president, vice president, former presidents and vice presidents, cabinet ministers, MECs, and foreign dignitaries.

In his response, Cele noted that R34 million was spent on fuel by VIP units between 218 and 2022— with the bulk of the spending incurred by the units in Gauteng and Western Cape.

Between March 2023 and March 2024, the SAPS spent an additional R8 million on petrol and diesel, with Gauteng’s VIP unit spending the lion’s share of R2.2 million.

This is unsurprising, given that the government union buildings are in Pretoria, while the houses of parliament are in the Western Cape.

Interestingly, over the same period, Mpumalanga was the second biggest spender of public funds, with its VIP vehicles spending over R1.1 million for the year.

“While South Africans are suffering from crushing cost of living, including higher fuel prices, ANC VIP cadres take the taxpayers for a ride without having to put their hands in their pockets,” said the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Andrew Whitfield in response to Cele’s revelations.

Whitfield’s response to the massive fuel bill seems less harsh when considering that the South African government spends more money protecting VIP millionaire ministers and politicians than it does on policing services for serious crimes.

For the 2024/25 financial year, the SAPS has budgeted R4 billion for protection and security services – of which R2.18 billion is specifically budgeted for VIP protection.

This is slightly less than the R2.4 billion budgeted by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (aka The Hawks) for special investigations to combat organised crime syndicates, severe and violent crime, commercial crime, and corruption.

To put the imbalance into perspective, taxpayers pay as much to keep 200 government VIPs safe as they do to investigate all serious crimes in the country.

What’s worse, Whitfield added that the ANC had increased the SAPS VIP Protection allocation in the mid-term budget by over R52 million.

“The budget allocation for these services has increased by over 25% over the last five years.

“Other SAPS spending programmes were not so lucky, with Crime Intelligence Operations increasing only by 11.5%, and the entire Crime Prevention programme by a dismal 12.4%,” he said.

Read: Home Affairs blowing millions on legal battles – and it’s getting worse

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