Sbu Sithole

Durban - Durban ratepayers look set to fork out nearly R40 million this year for a private security force to protect a handful of city councillors.

Guarding individual ward councillors, which exceeds R220 000 a month in some cases, is costing the city R3.2m a month in total.

Some 22 of the 205 councillors have been given private security protection, including a bodyguard, driver and rented escort vehicle.

Each bodyguard costs R71 000 a month, a rented car R22 000, and a driver R35 000.

Documents obtained by the Sunday Tribune show that the city’s most expensive lower-level politician is ward 76 councillor Robert Mzobe, whose security needs cost R223 080 in January alone.

Mzobe has an extra bodyguard, driver and security vehicle to watch his every move.

He did not respond to questions put to him about his safety, and could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.

Mzobe lives in uMlazi’s Glebelands hostel, which is a hotbed of political instability.

Also racking up a security bill of over R250 000 is the NFP’s husband-and-wife pair Bongiwe Mtshali and Bhungu Gwala. Both have their own protection requirements.

eThekwini Municipality spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said the decision to protect a handful of city councillors was measured.

“It is not taken lightly, but is based on threat-analysis reports from the SAPS, the Crime Intelligence Unit, and in some cases the National Intelligence Unit.”

Mofokeng insisted that the cost of providing bodyguards and vehicles had not been inflated.

“The costs are inclusive of motor vehicle costs. In some instances, council provides static guards either at a councillor’s home or office. The amount of R3.2m applies to the month of January,” he said.

He refused to say how much Durban had spent to date on the protection of the councillors, and the Sunday Tribune has applied for this information using the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

A city hall source said that the municipality’s fleet service should have been used, rather than hired cars.

A metro police officer told the Sunday Tribune the council’s own cops could protect councillors at a huge saving.

“The most you would pay a senior constable is R15 000 a month. You could essentially cut the bill by nearly three-quarters by using the metro police and the city’s own vehicles,” he said.

Sharks Protection Services, which has the contract to guard the councillors, would not comment, the firm’s attorney, Chantele Schutzler, said.

DA caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango described the payment of “inflated” bills as “theft”.

“We also need to know why the city is spending millions a month for councillors’ personal security when eThekwini has a metro police department at its disposal that should be providing these services at no extra cost… The whole situation is highly questionable.”

[email protected]

Sunday Tribune