Pretoria - Questions have been raised about the possible blurring of state and party lines after the City of Tshwane council used ratepayers’ money on an escort for President Jacob Zuma and his deputy while the two were on ANC work outside of the city’s borders.
Internal documents seen by Pretoria News show that Tshwane city manager Jason Ngobeni was asked to approve R500 000 for metro police to escort Zuma and his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, before and during the January 8 rally and launch of the ruling party’s 2014 election manifesto in Mbombela on January 12. The documents give details of the mission, including the request for Ngobeni to approve the sending of the metro police officers to Mpumalanga. The documents also mention R500 000 to be transferred from the city’s speed law enforcement cost centre to that of subsistence and travelling.
This city has admitted using its resources for the ANC gathering, but disputed the R500 000 figure mentioned. It did not give an alternative figure.
In a letter dated December 27 last year, the Presidential Protection Service requested that Tshwane Metro Police be allowed to deviate from their normal processes by assisting with escorting Zuma from January 3 to 12, and Motlanthe from January 8 to 12.
An advance team, consisting of two officers, would be sent ahead for three days to assess the identified accommodation and outline the route to be used by Zuma and Motlanthe from their residences to various meeting places, including the rally.
This was to be followed by a second team of 10 officers who would escort Zuma on his arrival in Mbombela, with a third team of seven officers performing similar duties for the deputy president.
Team four comprised management to oversee the operation and ensure the performance of Tshwane Metro Police was equal to the magnitude of the task, bringing to 22 the number of officers sent to Mpumalanga.
Arrangements were made for the fuelling of all vehicles at BP garages along the way to Mbombela, and in Mbombela, as well as waiving of tollgate fees.
According to the City of Tshwane, Ngobeni, in line with the Municipal Finance Management Act, approved the participation and expenditure for the requested services and extended the powers of the city police, including the use of vehicles and carrying of firearms, outside the jurisdiction of the City of Tshwane.
However, the DA in Tshwane said it could not condone the fact that the city had approved such a large amount of public money.
“The financial implications for the total amount due for fuel and the use of its own vehicles, has not yet been added to the R500 000,” the DA’s Karen Meyer said.
“First of all, it is not the responsibility of the Tshwane Metro to supply such a service and definitely not outside its borders.
“The Presidential Protection Service should not have asked Tshwane in the first place as it is the mandate of the South African Police Service to provide protection on a 24-hour basis, whether on official duty or private. Tshwane council should not have complied.
“Secondly, council never approved this. Until today, no such report was provided to councillors, the Section 79 Oversight Committee or the council, even though the Municipal Finance Management Act clearly states it should be submitted.”
Meyer also said Tshwane Metro Police did not have the necessary budget to supply this kind of service. “In fact, a special request was submitted to the city manager asking to deviate from the normal supply chain management procurement processes to transfer funds within the metro police vote,” Meyer stated.
“At the end of the day, residents are the losers as officers and money were taken away from Tshwane where a service should have been rendered to its own residents as far as safety is concerned.
“The DA demands that SAPS be billed for the total cost. We cannot allow government, not even a state president, to direct money away from the basic needs of a city to be used outside that city for its own luxurious extravagances.”
City of Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa has, meanwhile, defended the city’s decision to fund the mission.
Ramokgopa said: “We will continue to support various institutions in their request for our services and co-operation in programmes and activities that enhance our role.
“As a responsible tier of government and subscriber of sound intergovernmental relations and co-operation, we will consider requests for partnership and support for other entities in the future, it is an ethos and a responsibility which no opposition party can take away from modern government.
“We believe that our participation in various intergovernmental programmes and clusters are part of our contribution of an integrated public service and government self-sufficiency in a manner we deem to be the best of our contribution.”
Ngobeni congratulated members of the Tshwane Metro Police officers who participated “in an authorised and empowering SAPS co-ordinated security operation for the president and deputy president.
He said: “We take pride that our police department continues to be exposed to real life security and public order policing environment as a result of their participation in various operations taking place within and outside the boundaries of the city.”
The city had previously heeded requests by the SANDF, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, the Department of Arts and Culture and other public institutions, for major and mega events, said Ngobeni.
“As required by our legislation and good governance systems, the procurement process related to the associated costs will be attached as a note to the financial statements to council in its next meeting.
“We regard the allegations that the expenditure was wasteful as a deliberate ploy to mislead the public, as it is a matter of common knowledge that a determination is provided for through the intergovernmental relations framework.
“It remains the prerogative of the accounting officer and executive authority, in instances where costs for such are deemed unaffordable, to seek to fully or partially recover such from agencies and public institutions to whom such are rendered.”
Political analyst Daniel Silke warned that by funding the mission the City of Tshwane encroached on the use of ratepayers’ money on a political event.
He said the matter should be investigated fully.
“This will set a dangerous precedent, particularly with elections looming. There is a need to ring-fence public money, more so because this was the January 8 rally and manifesto launch, which was a purely political party event,” he said.