Taxpayers to spend R490m on VIPs’ safety

2011-02-26 16:57

Protecting VIPs will cost taxpayers close to half a billion rands in the current financial year, according to the 2011 Estimates of National ­Expenditure released by the ­National Treasury this week.

The bill for the protection of VIPs came to R406 million in 2009/10 for 216 presidential, ­national and provincial VIPs and 237 foreign dignitaries, including heads of state. This means it cost close to R900 000 to protect each of the 453 very important South ­African and foreign dignitaries.

According to the South African Institute of Race Relations, the police’s protection services unit had close to 17 000 members at the end of March last year, up from 3 359 in 2003/04 – an increase of 405%.

But not all these police members protect VIPs. Some are responsible for guarding strategic government buildings and valuable state cargo.

Institute researcher Kerwin Lebone attributed the rise in expenditure and the size of the unit to an increase in the size of government, a greater focus on ports of entry to combat international crime syndicate activity and the hosting of numerous international events and conferences.

“This necessitates extra protection for visiting dignitaries,” ­Lebone said.

Information on the number of ­officers protecting President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and other ­politicians is not readily available “owing to security concerns”.

In a parliamentary reply to Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler Barnard in May last year, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said 1 555 cops and 614 police vehicles were guarding 211 VIPs – an average of seven police members for each VIP.

Police spokesperson Colonel Vishnu Naidoo said protection and security services were undergoing a restructuring process. He said the total strength of the division was less than the 26 000 approved in 2003 based on a feasibility study.

“Any person may apply for VIP protection and if a threat assessment suggests that the applicant is deserving of protection, then such protection is awarded,” he said.

» In October, City Press reported that 13 security breaches were reported at the presidential guest house in Bryntirion, Pretoria, and in Parliament during the past ­financial year.

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