Down with cushy VIP cavalcades

2009-02-05 00:00

We are a proud people, we South Africans. Which is why we should protest loudly when a bunch of politicians do their best to turn us into a banana republic.

The next time one of these politicians’ convoys with five black Mercedes-Benz or BMWs and five black sport utility vehicles bear down upon you with blue lights flashing and expect you to stop or rush to the side of the road, put on your hazard lights and blow your hooter until they’re out of earshot.

In my case, I also wave my arms and utter the crudest obscenities I know in three languages if my child isn’t in the car with me. (I learnt to swear in Sesotho as a child, but no language can beat my mother tongue, Afrikaans, when it comes to swearing.)

It is time that every politician, whether he or she be the president, a minister, a premier, a provincial MEC or a mayor, took notice of how we citizens feel about their ridiculous sense of self-importance and their disregard of our rights.

Write letters to the newspapers about it, phone radio talk shows and complain or get up at the next political rally and tell them what you think.

Question: Jacob Zuma does not occupy one of the above positions. In fact, he has no public position; he is simply the leader of a political party. How come he gets a screaming, high-speed 10-vehicle cavalcade wherever he goes? (The cavalcade which killed someone in Ulundi this week?) Who is paying for it?

Entitled

The explanation the ANC gives is that he is entitled to protection because he is a former deputy president. Do F. W. de Klerk and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka also have huge cavalcades? I would say a former president or deputy president should get a bodyguard or two from the state, but not a United States-style cavalcade.

By the way, I was driving on the N1 out of Cape Town a few months ago when I noticed a gold-coloured Toyota Prius in the left lane. I was considering buying a Prius at the time, so I took a good look at it.

And then I noticed it was CA 1, the official vehicle of the mayor of Cape Town who is also leader of the official opposition, Helen Zille, who was sitting in the back seat all on her own. No bodyguards were evident and she was definitely not in a convoy. Way to go, sister.

Why do politicians think that anybody would want to kill them? We don’t even know who the deputy minister of Science and Technology or the MEC for housing for Limpopo is.

Would two bodyguards in the same car not be enough security? Alternatively, why do they think they have a right to escape the delays of traffic if the rest of us don’t?

Deserve more?

Men and women who run vast corporations or institutions such as Patrice Motsepe or Maria Ramos just have to plan their day better when they travel; there’s no screaming cavalcade for them. Why do politicians think they deserve more?

We need a non-partisan committee of experts to evaluate the actual need for armed, multi-vehicle cavalcades for every functionary higher than a public toilet inspector. It is a practice that undermines our national dignity and it generates unnecessary friction between citizens and political leadership.

I see the Gauteng regional head of the VIP Protection Unit, Commander Sean Tshabalala, was quoted this week lamenting the fact that the public “didn’t respect” his unit. You’ve got that one right, comrade commander. If you want respect, get out of the cushy cavalcade and go and fight some crime.

We must bring our politicians back to Earth. They’re supposed to serve us, not victimise us.

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