Strike up the R51m band – and take cops off the street
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Johannesburg - Tshwane’s metro police have been given the green light to establish a full-time ceremonial unit with a band and choir that will cost taxpayers R51 million a year.
Fifty-four officers will be taken off the streets to dedicate themselves to the unit.
The band – which has the backing of Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramakgopa – will perform at street parades, police funerals, memorial services and functions hosted by the municipality.
Until last month, the unit functioned on an ad hoc basis. Tshwane municipality spokesman Blessing Manale did not respond to queries on the cost and formation of the unit. Minutes from a council meeting on October 31 show that the unit was approved.
In the minutes, the metro police department acknowledges that budgeting for the unit should have “started earlier” but it says there will not be a “real increase” in costs because members of the new unit were already in other metro police divisions.
An annexure to minutes for a mayoral committee meeting in May says salaries in the unit will amount to R51.4m.
The unit has 83 staff members – 33 band members who are all metro police officers, 42 choir members (21 officers and 21 civilians in the department) and eight employee assistance members (five metro police chaplains, one civilian pastor and two social workers).
The annexure mooted an increase in the size of the ceremonial unit to 139 members.
According to the annexure, the cost of instruments, ceremonial uniforms, flags, podium and sound equipment would be about R881 267.
In the same minutes, the financial services department said the unit’s establishment would have “significant financial implications for the city of Tshwane”.
“The mayoral committee is advised by the group financial services department that additional budget funding cannot be sourced on an ad hoc or ad lib basis to accommodate requirements outside the budget process,” it said. “The metro police department should submit this project through the normal budgeting process as well as provide sufficient motivation for their inclusion and possible funding.”
The financial department argues that the project should compete with other projects for the limited financial resources available.
Councillor Karen Meyer, the DA spokeswoman on safety and security in Tshwane, said the council was not made aware of the unit’s costs. “The section 79 oversight committee, which the DA sits on, never saw the annexures related to financial implications. Clearly we were blindsided in council not to be shown the relevant annexures to be able to make an informed decision,” said Meyer.
Last month’s council meeting was the first time the issue had been raised and there were no annexures, said Meyer. Her other concern was the use of operational members despite the shortage of metro police officers in the city.
This was addressed at last month’s meeting, and the council agreed that when members were not rehearsing they would be on duty. At the time of the report, though, the band members were all unavailable for their regular duties as they were on an induction programme.
The inspiration for the ceremonial unit was the success of police bands and the SA National Defence Force’s unit. “It is international practice for police department to have bands that perform at various functions,” the minutes say.
The city, as the administrative capital, was eligible to establish such a ceremonial unit.