High cost of Zuma guards

2009-03-13 00:00

Cape Town — The Democratic Alliance are demanding answers from Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa following the revelation that South African taxpayers are paying about R1 million a month in protection costs for ANC president Jacob Zuma.

DA Safety and Security spokeswoman, Dianne Kohler-Barnard, has asked Mthethwa for a breakdown of the SAPS’s expenditure on Zuma and details as to why these costs are deemed necessary and what specific threats could warrant such extensive protection.

Opposition parties responded with outrage to reports that, since being dismissed as deputy president of South Africa in June 2005, taxpayers have paid close to R50 million for Zuma’s protection — and that the expenditure is ongoing.

The figures emerged in replies to parliamentary questions — along with the revelation that taxpayers have paid more than R2 million on legal fees for suspended national police commissioner Jackie Selebi’s fight against corruption charges.

In an open letter to Mthethwa yesterday, Kohler-Barnard asked for details of SAPS’s expenditure on protection services for other past and present government leaders including former deputy president Phumzile-Mlambo-Ngcuka, former presidents F.W. de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki and President Kgalema Motlanthe.

The DA spokeswoman said she wants answers to dispel the notion that political favouritism has played a role in providing such extensive security services for Zuma.

“This appears to be an excessive level of spending on any one individual. The costs are an unwarranted drain on the country’s and the police department’s limited resources.”

Cope spokesman Sipho Ngwema said the expenditure amounts to a “looting” of public funds, while UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said taxpayers are the victims of a policy that is vulnerable to exploitation.

Zuma’s spokesman, Zizi Kodwa, questioned the outrage, accusing opposition parties of being “small”.

Kohler-Barnard said it is alarming that expenditure on the VIP protection service has increased considerably in recent years, while other parts of the SAPS continue to suffer from severe backlogs and resource shortfalls.

“Expenditure on the VIP protection service has increased at the national level by 72% over the last five years, while there have been massive increases in spending on VIP services in provinces such as Mpumalanga (up 194% over five years), Limpopo (96%), North West (145%) and Free State (222%).

“These kind of spending increases clearly need justification,” she said.

The revelations of Zuma’s security costs come in the wake of increasing speculation that Zuma — with his mounting legal costs and the price of being a polygamist with numerous children — is set to become the most costly president in the history of South Africa.

His fraud and corruption case has already cost taxpayers more than R10,7 million, excluding the costs of the state in instituting the prosecution against him.

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