President Jacob Zuma’s personal guard now includes members of the police’s special task force, as well as heavily armed soldiers – an indication the officers responsible for his safety are becoming increasingly concerned about his safety.
The guards are in addition to the normal personnel of the police’s presidential protection unit (PPU), who are normally responsible for the president’s safety.
All the additional guards mean Zuma’s motorcade now regularly consists of more than 20 vehicles and motorcycles.
That includes a medical van and a separate vehicle for Zuma’s personal military medic.
This is far more than any previous head of state has ever required.
According to our sister newspaper Rapport’s information, there was a meeting at Waterkloof Air Force Base two weeks ago, where the new safety measures for the president were discussed.
An informed source close to the discussion said one of the issues was that four extra task force members and their weapons had to accompany Zuma on flights – in addition to his usual contingent of bodyguards.
This significant amount of weapons and ammunition creates a problem because international aviation regulations stipulate that weapons and ammunition have to be kept apart on international flights.
Guards therefore have to hand in their weapons’ magazines to the pilots, while their weapons are locked up separately.
The unpractical nature of this arrangement has meant two teams of task force members have had to be responsible for the president’s safety – one team that takes him to his plane and another that meets him after he has landed.
Informed sources say the protection measures are also applicable to Nkandla where the president spends most of his weekends.
The PPU came under fire during the budget debate in Parliament earlier this year, when the police asked for an additional R2.6 million for protection services.
Opposition members in parliament pointed out that the amount of money being spent on VIP protection services had increased by 50% over the past three years.
The unit is responsible for the protection of the president, deputy president, ministers and other important persons.
Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, SANDF spokesperson, said in response to inquiries the defence force would not discuss any of the protection measures around Zuma with the media.
The State Security Agency and the presidency did not react to numerous written requests for comment over the past week.
According to Rory Steyn, who used to be responsible for Nelson Mandela’s personal safety and is currently the chief executive officer of security firm Nicholls Steyn and Associates, the task force and army would usually only be involved when a heightened threat has been identified.
“There is ongoing risk analysis and when a threat is identified, a plan of action will follow.”
Steyn said he did not want to elaborate on the security measures for Mandela, but it is well known that it was a much smaller operation with fewer guards.
According to Steyn there were occasions where the task force helped with Mandela’s security.
“The bodyguards would then stick close to him, while the “Takies” would take care of outward security.
“We never needed to call in the help of the army. It would be acceptable if there were a particularly serious threat.”