Government's private army of 6600 personnel, costs taxpayers R2.6 billion annually

Government's private army of 6600 personnel, costs taxpayers R2.6 billion annually

- New research reveals that Jacob Zuma's legacy includes an army of almost 6,600 personnel which costs R2.6 billion a year

- This figure is compared to the one police officer per 346 ordinary citizens, granting the president 30,448 times more protection than the rest of the country

- The facts are hidden under layers of secrecy and the report documents the unknown statistics as well as the ones that are available

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In a report entitled “South Africa’s Secret Police”‚ researcher Gareth van Onselen said spending on VIP protection “exploded” during Zuma’s presidency, costing taxpayers R2.6 billion annually.

During the nine years under his predecessor‚ Thabo Mbeki‚ it cost R4.3-billion. Over the next decade‚ that rose to R18,2-billion.

“If Cyril Ramaphosa is elected president in 2019‚ just the first two years of his new administration ... will cost R5,8-billion in VIP protection‚” Van Onselen said in the new South African Institute of Race Relations report.

Although the document is full of statistics, Van Onselen said the budget for VIP protection is “shrouded in bureaucratic obfuscation”. shared some of the figures the report revealed:

  1. 6‚585 people work for VIP protection
  2. 4.4 guards are allocated to each of the 450 South African and foreign dignitaries they protect (2012/13 figure)
  3. 24.6 protectors guard each of the 137 residences and locations they are assigned to (2012/13)
  4. 47 guards are assigned to each of the 18 dignitaries covered by presidential protection services (2012/13)
  5. 88 protectors are assigned to the president.

READ ALSO: Report reveals Zuma’s guards knew nothing about his poisoning

Van Onselen pointed out protection for the public amounts to one police officer for every 346 citizens as revealed in a parliamentary reply in 2014. In other words‚ the president’s level of protection is 30‚448 times what is available to each ordinary South African.

“Quite who these people are‚ what they do‚ how they do it and who they report to is next to impossible to determine with any certainty from the public record‚” Van Onselen said.

“And yet they have grown exponentially‚ year-in and year-out‚ both in terms of budget and personnel. Today they constitute a veritable army of people. A private army‚ seemingly accountable to no one.”

VIP protection will cost R2,6-billion this year‚ compared with R234-million when it first appeared in the estimates of national expenditure in 2001. That is an increase of 1‚011%‚ almost four times higher than the 254% increase in inflation over the same period.

“The reasons for this growth are not known. And we have no idea how well the protection services are actually performing‚” he said‚ stating his report “is‚ in the end‚ an attempt not just to document the little we do know‚ but to map the vast chasm in the public record that constitutes those things we do not know”.

Van Onselen estimates that from 2009 to 2011‚ VIP flights cost R108-million a year.

“It is far more likely ... that the true‚ total figure is in excess of R250-million annually. And even that is probably conservative.”

“There are few component parts of any constitutional order for which transparency‚ oversight and accountability are more important‚” he said.

“The national security forces wield great power‚ are funded by significant amounts of public money and‚ by their very nature‚ generate an insular and self-contained organisational culture.

“To ensure they operate always in the public interest a constant vigilance is required. Failure to do so can‚ very quickly‚ result in a culture of secrecy and unaccountability taking hold.”

Van Onselen said the parliamentary portfolio committee on police is lax in their duties.

“The relevant chain of command is not called to account‚ budget increases are not interrogated against performance‚ accountability for security breaches is not cross-examined ... and meaningful details of equipment and personnel not demanded or provided.

“Vetting remains mysterious and unexamined ... The relationship between the intelligence services and the SA Police Service is unexplored.”

READ ALSO: Opinion: Is Julius Malema a fascist or racial nationalist?

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