The DA will refer the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele and the National Police Commissioner, Khehla Sitole, to the Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkwhebane, as we have reason to believe that Police leadership have not been transparent regarding the steep cost escalations in VIP Protection during the Zuma years.
Replies to DA Parliamentary questions have revealed that there has been no rational, objective basis for the exorbitant budget increase for the VIP Protection Services and Presidential Protection Services since 2010. In the last financial year alone, VIP Protection costs increased by over R100 million.
In late April, during Parliament’s Budget and Annual Performance Plans hearing on SAPS, I asked Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole for the reasons behind these increases. He stated that the cost escalations were based on “security threat assessments”.
However, a reply to a DA Parliamentary question last year, reveals that SAPS has done virtually no security threat assessments for individuals since 2010. Thus, the reason Sitole gave for the continuous, above-inflation budget escalations seems to be baseless on the available evidence.
Furthermore, a Parliamentary reply received last week, cites the “additional members of Cabinet [who] must be protected” as one of the reasons for the budget escalation. However, there has not been a year-on-year increase in the Cabinet size since 2010. In addition to this, the number of personal protectors assigned to Cabinet Ministers has stayed fairly constant since 2013, ranging from 382 to 405 each year.
The same reply also claims “an increase in manifested threats against VIPs” as one of the reasons for the escalated budget. However, how can SAPS give this as a reason with hardly any security assessments done for the past 8 years?
It is clear that both the Minister and the Police Commissioner are not forthcoming as to the reasons why costs of VIP Protection Services have ballooned from R353 million in 2008/09 to R1.5 billion in 2018/19.
So far the only reasonable conclusion is that all the cost escalations happened within the Presidential Protection Service and is further evidence of how Jacob Zuma received direct, unreasonable and undue benefit from public resources. It’s basically another Nkandla-type scandal and we don’t know if it entails an increase in the number of personnel as attempts to obtain this information were rebuffed because “disclosure of this information in itself can pose a serious risk to the effective protection of the President and Deputy President”.
The ANC spends more money on VIP Protection than they do on land reform, which begs the question – is the ANC serious about land reform and building a safe and equitable society?
It is clear that the ANC government prioritises the safety of politicians, in the feathered nest of the executive elite, over that of ordinary people who are ambushed by crime in their homes, in public spaces and places of work. Only a DA-led government will bring the kind of change that ensures that the police service is more professional, efficient and effective to ensure that our streets and homes are safer for all South Africans.