R18 million. That is what it cost eThekwini ratepayers in the last year to protect 11 councillors who believe their lives are in danger.
Their private bodyguards are costing up to R10 000 a day each for looking after a handful of the city’s 200 councillors.
The cost of security for councillors grew from R1.9m last year to R18m this financial year, a 947 percent increase, according to council documents the Sunday Tribune had sight of this week.
Documents showed that 11 councillor each had a security detail costing R140 000 a month.
The annual cost of protecting one councillor is about what a deputy city manager is paid.
While some of the councillors require protection due to their politically-sensitive positions, others appear to have incurred the wrath of communities by falling foul of the law.
So worrisome is the cost that municipal manager S’bu Sithole, himself protected by 24-hour guards, has decided to review the security arrangement, which could result in some councillors losing their bodyguards.
The Sunday Tribune can also disclose that the bulk of the R1.5m-a-month security contract is shared between just two companies – KwaZulu-Natal Security Services and Enforce Security Services.
The bill has raised the ire of opposition political parties.
The IFP’s caucus leader Mduduzi Nkosi said: “Paying R140 000 a month is so high that even if there were four or five bodyguards per councillor, it still should not cost that much. We see a lot of Chevrolet Cruze sedans being hired for councillors. Many are not even using their cars anymore. I don’t know how that one is justified. It makes it hard to defend the municipality when it is accused of wasteful expenditure.”
While the city would not name the councillors who are receiving protection, the Sunday Tribune has established the list includes:
He denied the allegations and has yet to move into the house.
The R18 million excludes costs incurred by the provision of security and escorts for the mayor, the city manager, deputy mayor, the speaker and embattled head of Metro Police Eugene Nzama – all of whom are guarded by the city’s own Protection Services, attached to the Metro Police.
The figure is also likely to escalate if more councillors come forward with reports of death threats.
The city’s head of security services Dumisani Bhengu said the council had adopted an interim policy document calling for heightened security for councillors soon after the murder of ANC councillor Wiseman Mshibe.
Bhengu said if a councillor received death threats, a case would have to be opened and then the council would get SAPS crime intelligence and the National Intelligence Agency to determine the extent of the risk.
However, due to escalating costs to the municipality, Sithole has decided to reassess the councillors’ security arrangements with a view to doing away with the policy.
Two months ago Sithole wrote to Brigadier Thuso Tshika, SAPS head of Crime Intelligence, to start assessing each case on its merit.
Sithole wanted the withdrawal process of guards to be done independently due to its sensitivity and, according to Bhengu, the council will withdraw the guards based on the completion and recommendations of the risk assessment.
The IFP’s Nkosi said while security for councillors could not be taken lightly, his party could not understand the “exorbitant” cost and why the City was also providing cars for these councillors.
DA eThekwini caucus leader Tex Collins was cautious in his criticism of the security costs.
“What value do you place on a life? Unfortunately, their lives may well be in danger. I’d hate to be the person to say no, next thing somebody gets shot and killed. I have personally known of at least three councillors shot in the course of their duties, who fortunately lived to tell the tale. Others didn’t.
“It’s very difficult to quantify. It’s a lot of money, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be the person to say cut back, in the hope that nobody gets shot, and then something happens. I couldn’t live with myself.”
Collins said if he wanted a bodyguard, the council would be obliged to provide one.
“Fortunately we’re in a position where we’re not threatened by anyone.”
Council speaker Logie Naidoo, the city’s first port of call for councillors facing death threats, said this week the municipality spent about R1.3m a month to guard 11 councillors, which is slightly less than the figure in the report seen by the Tribune.
While some officials have raised concerns about the cost of the protection for councillors, Naidoo said sensitivity should be applied to the matter because you couldn’t place a value on someone’s life.
“This can never be a wasteful expenditure,” said Naidoo.
“We really need to be sensitive around this issue because we have lost two councillors in S’bu Sibiya and Wiseman Mshibe. This is not an easy matter to deal with. One lapse could be very costly,” he said.
Nkosi also questioned why only a few security companies provided services.
“The question that needs to be asked is why is KZN Security getting the lion’s share of the security contracts, when there are so many companies?”
An independent security company owner told the Sunday Tribune yesterday it could cost up to R10 000 a day to guard a high-profile individual.
“I know of a firm that charges R2 800 per protector per day,” he said.