Joburg mayor gets a massive VIP upgrade – 10 bodyguards and 8 luxury vehicles

 ·9 Apr 2024

The City of Johannesburg (CoJ) will spend over R3 million a month on VIP protection with 60 bodyguards and 40 vehicles – emulating the blue-light culture that costs South Africa more than policing services for serious crimes.

The City of Johannesburg’s ANC-EFF coalition government reduced and revised its budget from R83 billion to R76 billion due to declining revenue, which has wreaked havoc on service delivery.

MMC for Finance Dada Morero has even admitted the city’s billing for services was below budget by R3.4 billion, while overspending on bulk services was R342 million.

He added that the city was losing a third of its water and electricity revenue to factors such as servicing indigent residents, theft, and leaks.

Despite this, the Daily Maverick reported that the council’s last meeting approved a spending splurge for the city’s politicians.

The City of Johannesburg (COJ) has introduced a policy that grants VIP protection to committee chairpersons and councillors, along with the executive, resulting in a larger number of individuals receiving the service.

The DA and ActionSA opposed the splurge, but the governing coalition passed it with a slim majority.

According to the Daily Maverick, the city’s politicians will receive roughly 60 bodyguards and 40 vehicles from the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD).

Executive Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda will now be provided with 10 bodyguards from the JMPD and eight cars from its fleet, which include luxury vehicles from brands such as BMW, VW, Lexus, and Toyota.

Margaret Arnolds, the Speaker from the African Independent Congress party, will have a convoy of five cars and eight bodyguards assigned to her.

The city added that these VIP services will be provided for 12 hours a day and cost just over R3 million a month – which works out to just over R54,000 per bodyguard.

Speaking to Newszroom Afrika, Arnolds defended the policy and said that the provisions aligned with the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act, and no diversion of service delivery resources were involved.

She said the policy has been adjusted given the highest risk to the safety of office bearers in the province, evidenced in the the shooting of council Chief Whip Sithembiso Zungu in January.

However, She added that not all councillors will receive VIP protection, as processes need to be completed to grant it.

“A threat against the safety of the councillor must be made, then the South African Police Service must conduct an assessment, and only then will the municipality provide security for the concerned councillor(s),” she said.

However, the DA Johannesburg caucus leader Belinda Kayser-Echeozonjoku said this policy is another example of an overreaching, spendthrift-filled executive.

“The CoJ executive has demonstrated that they are willing to flout both laws and rules of the council to enrich cadres. Money should be spent on services and not on individuals serving the residents.

“If service delivery were to be improved, residents wouldn’t be so frustrated and prompted to lash out, which include threats to councillors who are failing at their jobs,” she said.

Civil society groups – such as the Johannesburg Crisis Alliance (JCA) – have also called the move a slap in the face of residents who face the daily deterioration of services across the city and nothing more than an attempt to emulate the blue-light culture that exists at the national and provincial levels.

This response to the policy doesn’t seem too far-left-field 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 for investigating all serious crimes in the country.

Read: South Africa’s massive police problem

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