Cape Town – President Cyril Ramaphosa has come out in defence of the R2 billion spent by the police to provide security to members of the Cabinet and other top-ranking politicians.
Ramaphosa also said there was no reason to fire Police Minister Bheki Cele after the SAPS racked up a R600 million bill on catering and accommodation.
Steenhuisen asked the government to justify spending almost R2bn of the budget of the SAPS, which he said amounted to about R8bn a year, to protect ministers, deputy ministers and other top-ranking politicians.
He said politicians, who received generous salaries, could comfortably cover their own armed response requirements, alarm installations and perimeter security.
This was against the backdrop of 67 people being murdered and 153 being raped in the country every day.
In his written response, Ramaphosa disagreed with Steenhuisen’s assertions on expenditure on VIP protection services.
“It is a well-established principle in jurisdictions across the world that the state should provide adequate protection to officials whose personal safety may be at risk by virtue of the positions they occupy,” he said.
Ramaphosa also said the national commissioner of the SAPS had been responsible for a national protection service since the interim constitution came into effect in 1994.
He said the budget for VIP protection services, which accounted to less than 2% of the total SAPS budget, included providing comprehensive protection to himself and Deputy President David Mabuza, former presidents and former deputy presidents, and visiting heads of state and their spouses.
VIP protection services were extended to 62 national dignitaries including 28 ministers, 34 deputy ministers, Parliament Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Parliament Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli, National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo and deputy chairperson Sylvia Lucas.
Also receiving VIP protection were 124 provincial dignitaries including the nine premiers, nine provincial legislature speakers and their deputies, and 87 MECs as well as ad hoc and foreign dignitaries that visited South Africa.
Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, Constitutional Court justices, judge presidents and the president of the Supreme Court of Appeal also received comprehensive protection.
The president ruled out any possibility of axing Cele from his Cabinet.
This after the SAPS had spent about R600m on catering and accommodation since Cele became Minister of Police in February 2018.
In his response, Ramaphosa said the SAPS’ expenditure on catering and accommodation since February 2018 was incurred in their fulfilment of the constitutional and statutory responsibilities.
“There is no reason to replace a minister on the basis of expenditure that forms part of the operational requirements of a police service,” he said.
Ramaphosa said like all other expenditure on items in the SAPS budget, catering and accommodation costs formed a normal part of the costs of running a police service.
He stated that police officers had to be accommodated when away from their place of work due to specific operational needs and deployment requirements.
“Examples in recent years include public order interventions in various provinces, securing the national and local government elections, deployments in response to Covid-19, and deployments (of police during) the July 2021 unrest.”
Earlier this month, Steenhuisen led a #CeleMustGo march to the SAPS headquarters at the Telkom Building in Pretoria.
The party said at the time that Cele enjoyed the backing of Ramaphosa in the face of an out-of-control crime crisis and a desperately under-resourced SAPS, and Cele’s personal outbursts that characterised him as grossly incompatible with the high office he holds.