New speaker praised for thriftiness

2010-04-13 00:00

FROM 12 to zero.

This is the difference in the number of bodyguards that former council speaker Alpha Shelembe had in comparison to current council speaker Babu Baijoo.

The Witness understands that Baijoo has personally decided that he will not make use of any bodyguards during his term and opposition parties within the Msunduzi Municipality have reacted favourably to the news.

Contacted for comment, Baijoo said he did not want to draw a comparison between himself and Shelembe.

In terms of his job description, he is purely there for the turn-around strategy and his work is such that he is not really exposed to danger, but Shelembe’s situation could have been different from his own, said Baijoo.

Unlike Shelembe, Baijoo has also decided not to have a personal driver and instead drives himself around in his own car.

“It’s cumbersome to have a driver and lots of bodyguards around so if I need to go somewhere it’s just easier for me to jump into my car and go … The municipality needs to save as much as possible,” he said.

Baijoo said the previous bodyguards posted to the speaker’s office were actually deployed from the planning department where they used to monitor illegal businesses and informal street trading.

“I’d rather they be doing that [instead of guarding me] because that work adds more value to the city as a whole,” he said.

DA caucus leader Bill Lambert said: “This is … another step in the right direction. The whole purpose of the intervention is to save the city.”

The city was a sinking ship, said Lambert, but things are coming around as new leaders make selfless decisions in order to put Pietermaritzburg first.

“It’s been quite unbelievable for many months at the number of body­guards these people had. Who were they afraid of, who wanted to attack them and what were they doing to warrant being attacked? It’s not the DA or the IFP that was threatening them, but people from their own party,” said Lambert.

He commended Baijoo, saying his decision will save the municipality a lot of money.

IFP caucus leader Dolo Zondi was delighted when he heard the news, saying he hammered the previous political heads in past meetings of the executive committee about the army of bodyguards at their disposal: “These are the kinds of leaders we need.”

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