Security at President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet’s heavily guarded Bryntirion Estate in Pretoria and that at Parliament was breached more than a dozen times between April last year and March this year.
This is despite taxpayers forking out just under R1 billion in the same period for VIP protection services and providing security services to presidential and ministerial residences, and other government buildings.
More than R400 million of this was spent on VIP protection services and about R560 million on static and mobile security, which protects 25 government buildings and 76 presidential and national ministerial residences.
One of the burglaries was at Zuma’s presidential guesthouse in Bryntirion, where floodlights were stolen between April and June last year, according to the police’s 2009/10 yearly report.
Functions and events such as state banquets for visiting foreign dignitaries are held at the presidential guesthouse.
In the past year, it has hosted US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s guest.
In April, a state banquet attended by Zuma was held for Republic of the Congo President Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
However, police spokesperson Colonel Lindela Mashigo denied that these breaches, where minor items were stolen, threatened the security of the president and other VIPs.
Four of the cases were at the Bryntirion Estate, where many senior government officials live, and six were at the parliamentary complex in Cape Town.
Police say 18 suspects involved in the 13 security breaches have been arrested, with nine of the cases being finalised.
Bryntirion Estate, a national key point, was established in 1903 and Cabinet ministers also have official residences there.
At least seven cases were opened at the Sunnyside and Cape Town Central police stations.
The incidents at Bryntirion include housebreaking and theft of two computers, a keyboard, two monitors and copper cables.
In the current financial year, VIP protection services and security guard services have been allocated R1.07 billion.
The amount spent on protecting dignitaries has increased from about R630 million in 2006/07, R720 million in 2007/08 and R826 million in 2008/09.
VIP protection services include security for presidential guests, national and provincial guests, foreign dignitaries, special events, and the movement of
VIPs inside and outside the country.
At the parliamentary complex, including the Old Assembly Building, suspects have been arrested for trespassing and theft.
A mentally ill man trespassed at the Rondebosch (Groote Schuur) Estate – where many ministers reside – but no criminal investigation was launched.
According to Mashigo, these incidents were committed by people who gained lawful access to the premises.
A R90-million security wall was reportedly built in 2007 at Bryntirion Estate.
In 2005, the late former public works minister Stella Sigcau revealed that R4 million would be spent on installing security alarms and gates in all houses at the estate.
The latest crime statistics show that house burglaries and robberies have increased in the 2009/10 period – 256 577 burglaries and 18786 robberies – at residential premises.
And it seems even the VIPs are not safe despite the millions spent on their security.
But Mashigo insisted that none of the breaches in ministers’ homes protected by the SA Police Service threatened their safety and security.
The public works department recently invited tenders, which closed on Tuesday, for the construction of gates three and five of the estate, and the refurbishment of gate four.
Zuma’ spokesperson Zizi Kodwa would not comment and referred enquiries to the police.
Mashigo said the petty thefts happened because the premises were frequented by people on a daily basis; including employees of various departments, contracted companies, suppliers, maintenance personnel, visitors and various other service deliverers.