Bodyguard service ‘unnecessary’

2012-11-16 00:00

THE speaker of Mthonjaneni Municipality is being supplied with bodyguards at ratepayers’ expense despite no risk assessment showing she is in danger.

The mayor’s own assessment notes that, upon taking up the position after the local elections in May last year, the main threat to her safety, came from an ANC rival for the position.

These facts emerged this week from documents obtained by The Witness.

Protecting Mayor Maureen Ndlangamandla and Speaker Ntombi Jiyane costs ratepayers R650 000 a year. Both have two bodyguards costing about R30 000 a month.

Census 2011 reveals that Mthonjaneni has a population of about 47 818. The rates register shows a tax base of 640 ratepayers.

Documents show the women were given bodyguards within weeks of taking up their positions last year. The IFP-controlled council was taken over in May by a coalition between the ANC, which won five seats, and Jiyane’s NFP, which won one seat.

The documents also reveal that the first South African Police Services threat assessment concluded there were no threats to Ndlangamandla’s safety. Communication from Superintendent S R Janse van Vuuren of Esh­owe cluster concluded on September 27, 2011 that concerns by the mayor had no substance.

However, within weeks, that assessment had been overridden. Colonel S S Dubazana wrote to municipal manager André Els on October 12: “Information from independent sources does confirm the existence of a serious conflict within the ANC in Mthonjaneni District, which might possibly lead to violence, and that such conflict emanates from the dissatisfaction about the appointment of the mayor.”

In Jiyane’s case, the IFP at the last council meeting raised the issue that she had never done the paperwork required to qualify for bodyguards. The party had been pursuing the issue since the first council meeting, said spokesperson of the IFP caucus, Eric Masikane.

“We think the Speaker owes the ratepayers a refund,” he said, for using bodyguards for about 18 months without having provided the required paperwork.

“We warned at the time the issue was debated in council last year that rates and taxes would have to be increased to cover that, there is no other way to get the money for that, because there was no budget for it,” added Masikane.

Els said yesterday there were no procurement stipulations regarding the provision of bodyguards. “Once a threat assessment has been done, council takes a decision” he said.

He confirmed that there had been no budget for bodyguards when they were first supplied, but said that the budget had been approved, retrospectively, in January.

Chairperson of the Melmoth Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, Liz Papenfus, said: “We are currently drawing up a letter to the municipality to protest at the cost to the community, of officials’ bodyguards.

“We have seen large hikes in electricity tariffs, which some cannot afford, which we believe is an attempt to balance the books.

“We believe the mayor and speaker, or their parties, should pay for their bodyguards themselves,” added Papenfus.

Jiyane had not responded to questions and Ndlangamandla is on sick leave.

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