Durban - Durban’s councillors are asking ratepayers to cough up another R10 million to tighten personal security after a spate of political killings in the province.
Opposition parties red-flagged the move on Thursday, saying it would bring the total expenditure on safeguarding councillors to R28m a year.
They are asking if the threats to councillors’ lives are from inside or outside their respective parties.
The suggestion to increase security funding was made in the adjustment budget for 2012/2013, presented to the finance and procurement committee on Thursday.
It will be examined at the committee’s next meeting and then considered by the executive committee and full council before it is approved.
eThekwini speaker Logie Naidoo maintained that the R10m was “not additional” but a surplus amount from another area, reallocated to security, to balance the council’s books.
But the DA and the IFP contend that spending on bodyguards is excessive.
“KZN has lost a number of councillors over the last years and steps must be taken to ensure the safety of public representatives under threat.
“However, it is important to understand the nature of the threats,” DA chief whip Dean Macpherson said.
If the danger was from factional disputes in political parties or due to councillors not doing the job they were elected to do by their community, then it could be asked if it was the ratepayers’ responsibility to foot the bill, he said.
“One councillor has six to eight bodyguards at any one time and a hired vehicle at a minimum cost of R1 000 a day.
“Until such time as a full report on councillors’ security is made available for scrutiny, it is impossible to determine if such expenditure is justified,” he argued.
Such a report would identify who the vulnerable councillors were, the nature of the risk and the amount spent on guards and hired vehicles.
Mary de Haas, of the KZN Violence Monitor, said it would be “unacceptable” for the committee not to be provided with these details when they next met.
“Where does the threat come from? If it’s because of tensions within the party, then ratepayers should not be paying for that.”
She said that if, in their capacity as councillor, the person was exposing corruption, then it wouldn’t be a problem to pay for their protection.
“We need to know the breakdown of the costs. To not do so, is part of a growing culture of secrecy,” she said.
Naidoo emphasised that the provision of security to a councillor was not a decision taken lightly.
He explained that when the request was made by a councillor, reports from both local and national crime intelligence were commissioned.
Naidoo said “generally” the expense was only for bodyguards and not vehicles.
He said that while the names of the councillors and their addresses was sensitive information, he would support the committee being provided with more details. - The Mercury