Pietermaritzburg - A Tuesday special council sitting of the Msunduzi Municipality descended into a heated verbal exchange when opposition parties demanded a report on the costs of the bodyguards attached to senior politicians in the city.
Currently, bodyguards are attached to Speaker Jabu Ngubo, Mayor Themba Njilo, his deputy Thobani Zuma and City Manager Sizwe Hadebe.
While costs have not been disclosed it is believed that they run into thousands of rands each month.
Recently the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department (Cogta) indicated that bodyguards attached to politicians would be slashed and any request for additional security would be subject to crime intelligence assessments.
KZN Cogta indicated that nearly 35 mayors in the province have no fewer than three bodyguards each, with 29 deputy mayors and 30 speakers having at least two, and 143 councillors from 19 municipalities having a combined figure of 266 bodyguards attached to them.
Msunduzi Municipality Speaker Ngubo expressed her discomfort over the call from Cogta insisting that the department may have overstepped the mark in calling for the reduction of bodyguards for politicians.
Opposition parties, however, welcomed the call as they believe that the system is being abused by ANC leaders and this prompted calls for a report on the policy and costs to be presented before council. "We need to know the costs involved and whether the matter is addressed in the cost containment strategy," said councillor Dennis Ntombela from the IFP.
ANC councillors expressed reservations over the disclosure of such information which they believe is sensitive.
General manager for community services Boniwe Zulu said her department would prepare the report that would be tabled before council as the matter of security fell within her department. She added that officials from the SAPS Crime Intelligence Unit would also advise on the matter.
Msunduzi municipality falls within the ANC Moses Mabhida Region which has over the past two years witnessed a number of politically-linked killings of councillors and senior officials. Last year Ngubo's bodyguard died in a hail of bullets, heightening fears that such killings would continue.
African News Agency/ANA