File photo: Reuters

Durban - Durban’s metro police should have trained VIP police to serve as bodyguards for councillors who need protection.

This was the call from opposition parties on Tuesday after it emerged that the municipality had spent R3.2 million in January on bodyguards for 22 councillors whose lives were considered to be at risk.

DA caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango believed that the amount was too much for this service, saying that it was theft of ratepayers’ money.

“These are shockingly inflated rates for these services,” he said.

The bodyguards are for 19 ANC councillors and three from the NFP.

“Each councillor has a bodyguard at R71 000 a month, a rented car at R22 000 a month and a driver at R35 000 a month. Some of the bodyguards cost R106 000 a month,” he said.

He wanted to know why the municipality was spending millions for bodyguards when it had a metro police department. “If such security is warranted, the DA calls on the city to incorporate these VIP protection staffers into its metro police station as a cost-saving measure,” he said.

IFP caucus leader Mdu Nkosi said that having bodyguards for councillors who were at risk was necessary, but there were cheaper options.

“We have a metro police department, so why can’t we train a number of our policemen to work as bodyguards when needed?” he asked.

The problem with contracts was that the prices were always inflated, he said.

“I find it hard to believe that so much money has been spent on just 22 bodyguards. It also needs to be investigated why these councillors need them because it appears that some just want them for show,” he said.

MF councillor Patrick Pillay agreed that an in-house VIP unit within the metro police would work best.

The Speaker for eThekwini, Logie Naidoo, said that the safety of municipal councillors was a sensitive matter and should not be politicised.

“The decision to provide councillors with security is not taken lightly, but is based on threat analysis reports from the SAPS crime intelligence unit and in some cases the national intelligence unit,” he said.

He denied that costs for guards were inflated, saying they were inclusive of vehicle costs.

“In some instances, the council provides static guards either at a councillor’s home or office. The level of security provided is based on the threat analysis. This is the reason for variance in costs,” he said.

Naidoo said the security needs analysis applied to all political parties and was reviewed when necessary.

The Mercury