Durban - The eThekwini municipality wants to have its own VIP bodyguard unit up and running within the next six months.
Mayor James Nxumalo instructed city manager S’bu Sithole during a municipal executive committee meeting on Tuesday to “fast track” establishing a VIP unit, saying it would save the city money.
The members of the unit would form part of the metro police
“We need to have our own fully fledged VIP unit. It will save a lot of money because we are paying too much for various things.
“If we can have our own VIP unit it can lead to job creation and they will be employed by the city,” so there would be no need to outsource, he said.
Nxumalo gave Sithole six months to establish it.
The city had decided in principle to establish its own VIP unit, Sithole said, and plans to set it up were under way.
The Daily News recently reported that the eThekwini Municipality had doubled its budget to protect 22 councillors, forking out as much as R106 000 a month for each bodyguard.
According to documents provided to the Daily News by the DA, the city spent R3.2 million a month on bodyguards in January. In March, the figure increased to R3.4m.
The councillors - 19 from the ANC and three from the NFP - are deemed “high risk” and are provided with 24-hour protection.
According to the municipality’s 2013/14 adjustment budget, R18m was needed for bodyguards.
“The increase in the number of threats directed towards councillors escalated the costs for VIP security,” a note to the city’s executive committee read earlier this year.
Two years ago, the city provided bodyguards for 11 councillors at a cost of R1.4m a month
Zwakele Mncwango, DA eThekwini caucus leader, said the municipality had “finally heeded” the DA’s calls for a city- run VIP unit, adding that he felt vindicated.
“At the time, council Speaker Logie Naidoo was very defensive, denying the excessive expenditure and accusing the DA of cheap politicking and making false statements.
“The DA repeatedly called on council to incorporate these private VIP staffers into the city’s metro police department who rightfully should have been providing these services at no extra cost, but to no avail.
“The DA welcomes this decision and will continue to provide effective oversight in eThekwini to ensure that city funds are not utilised haphazardly,” he said.