Picture: Timothy Bernard
Picture: Timothy Bernard

Blue light ‘prince’

By Thabiso Thakali Time of article published Jul 23, 2011

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A wealthy Joburg businessman has his own blue light escort – an armed and uniformed Joburg metro police department sergeant in a JMPD patrol car complete with flashing lights and sirens.

And when concerned JMPD patrolmen asked their senior officers why multi-millionaire Phineas Manthata, whose business fits JMPD vehicles with blue lights, sirens and radios, was receiving this unprecedented service, they were disparaged as “little puppets”.

Yesterday Manthata, who styles himself on his company website as His Royal Highness Prince Vimpie Phineas Manthata of the Royal Kingdom of Batlokwa Pietersburg, put the revelations down to envy.

“Black people are so jealous of one another. If there are people in JMPD who are jealous of (Sergeant Comfort) Rakobane working with me it is not my problem. The JMPD must deal with this.”

Manthata’s company, Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement, is subcontracted to Fleet Africa – one of the main companies managing government vehicle fleets. Manthata is contracted to supply, fit and service equipment to the JMPD’s patrol vehicles including armour and cameras.

Last January he was investigated by Zambia’s anti-corruption commission regarding R140 million allegedly overpaid to his company, after he provided the country with armoured presidential BMW X5 vehicles, traffic equipment and escort motorbikes.

At the time Manthata dismissed the allegations as “nonsense” and told Zambia’s The Post newspaper that Zambian authorities owed him over R84m. Last December, he supplied 40 BMWs to the Zimbabwe Republic Police for R20m.

His exclusive and unprecedented use of a full-time and free JMPD escort came to a head last month when a South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) shop steward officially complained to the JMPD’s director of operations Joyce Maribe about the long-standing arrangement.

Maribe did not respond.

Instead, Superintendent Robert Moeketsi of region B (Randburg) where Rakobane is stationed wrote back to the union accusing them of being “little puppets” and added: “Whoever has a complaint regarding the escort of Mr Phineas Manthata by Sergeant Rakobane must communicate the matter with the chief of police (Chris Ngcobo)”.

Yesterday, City of Joburg spokesman Gabu Tugwana denied that Manthata was being escorted by the JMPD.

“Sergeant Rakobane is not assigned full-time to escort Mr Manthata. He is a member of the VIP unit responsible (for) escorting state or government officials when required to do so. It is however in the best interests for all to know that all escorts are administered by the Joint Operations Team which reports to Director Maribe.”

Tugwana admitted that the city was looking into the tone and language Moeketsi used in his letter to the union.

Yesterday Manthata denied Rakobane had been assigned to escort him, but said he had an arrangement with the JMPD to be given escorts if foreign officials came to South Africa.

“There are different officers in the unit that I work with. I have an agreement with JMPD for escorts of officials like police and army generals who come here from other countries,” he said. “JMPD must sort this issue out. You must talk to Chris (Ngcobo); he will explain this to you.”

Manthata said his business regularly dealt with the SAPS Presidential Protection Unit, the VIP protection units for ministers and provincial MECs and provincial traffic departments as well as the JMPD.

“The agreement between me and the government doesn’t need anybody. The escort is not my personal one… it depends on the situation.”

In 2005, Manthata organised a tour by a high-profile delegation of Moroccan traffic chiefs.

Johan Burger, a security expert with the Institute of Security Studies, said Manthata’s escort appeared to “violate protocol” and wasn’t something Manthata was entitled to.

Samwu provincial organiser Jack Mokalapa said Manthata’s escort arrangement with the JMPD had to be stopped. - Saturday Star

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