All the president's cars

Cape Town - A total of 24 new BMW's at a cost of R25m have been bought the past three years by the police force's presidential protection unit for use in the president and deputy president's cavalcades.

The fleet includes four armoured 7 series BMW's, the same limousine-type vehicles used by amongst others, Victoria Beckham, also known as Posh Spice.

Sources at BMW South Africa say an armoured car includes bullet-proof windows and body, as well as a strengthened chassis against landmine explosions. The changes are apparently specially done at BMW's factory in Germany.

After spotting the brand-new vehicles at parliament, President Thabo Mbeki's spokesperson, Bheki Khumalo, confirmed that a new fleet has been introduced, but he referred all questions about cost and how many new cars have been bought, to the police's national protection unit.

Selby Bokaba, spokesperson for the unit, confirmed that the following vehicles have been bought:

  • Two armoured BMW's in the 2001/02 financial year;
  • Two armoured BMW's in the 2002/03 financial year;
  • 12 5 series BMW's in the 2002/03 financial year;
  • Two BMW X5 four-wheel drive vehicles in the 2002/03 financial year;
  • Four 5 series BMW's in the 2003/04 financial year; and
  • Two BMW's X5 four-wheel drive vehicles in the 2003/04 financial year.

    The total cost is R24 909 675.

    It has been established that although it means more than R1m a car, thousands more than the average retail price, the special armament for the 7 series is exceptionally expensive.

    The protection service unit didn't give more details about the cost.

    The vehicles are used as the official cars of the president and the deputy president and the others for body guards and support personnel.

    Half of the fleet remains in Cape Town and the other half in Gauteng.

    The director of the institute of safety studies, Dr Jakkie Cilliers, says it's not unusual for presidents and VIP's to use armoured vehicles.

    Cilliers says: "Even ambassadors and others in sensitive positions are protected in this manner and it's actually standard practise".

    In an article entitled The President's car choice in BMW News, the car manufacturer's internal news magazine, the company proudly stated that it had been successful in changing the president's fleet entirely.

    Government sources, who preferred to remain anonymous, say, however, the cars have been brought from the national protection services budget and the president has no say in which cars are bought.

    Sources say the previous fleet was bought in 1995 and some of the cars have become obsolete and had to be replaced.

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