South Africa spends more than R3 billion on VIP protection for government officials. However, recent events have brought into question what exactly this money is being spent on.
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) CEO Wayne Duvenage told eNCA that R3.4 billion was spent on VIP protection for politicians in the 2023 financial year – a figure that far outweighs the R2.25 billion allocated to the Hawks.
“An audit needs to be done and very stringent scrutiny of what is that R3 billion being spent on for VIP protection. Why are we spending so much in comparison to what we spend on the Hawks?” he said.
Members of Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s VIP protection team were recently caught on camera assaulting motorists and passengers on the N1 highway in Johannesburg.
The video of this incident went viral on social media and sparked a nationwide debate over the country’s so-called “blue light brigades” and the extent of their powers.
“What gives them the right to put those blue lights on and behave as if everybody must move out of their way?” Duvenage asked. “We’ve got to start asking ourselves what we are spending this money on.”
The members of Mashatile’s protection unit that were caught on camera have since been suspended, and no arrests have been made – something Duvenage said points to special treatment of these VIP protection members.
Mashatile initially said he was not in the vehicle at the time of the incident. However, Netwerk24 reported that the Deputy President’s office later confirmed he was in the vehicle.
“Why do they get special treatment? Of course, they should be suspended, but that’s the least of the action that should be taken against them,” said Duvenage.
“They should be sitting in jail right now while we deal with the criminal conduct of their behaviour.”
He said this issue must be addressed because South Africans are rapidly losing trust in the government.
The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer showed that South Africans trust businesses and NGOs far more than the media and government.
The barometer indicated South Africans perceived businesses and NGOs as the only trusted, competent, and ethical institutions.
In the 2023 study, there was a 40-point difference between trust in business and trust in government. 62% of South Africans surveyed trust businesses, while only 22% trust the government.
‘Absurd and highly questionable’
Sygnia co-founder and CEO Magda Wierzycka also called into question the amount South Africa spends on VIP protection for politicians earlier this year.
She said South Africa spends around R2 billion per annum to protect 280 government officials – money that could be used to protect whistleblowers.
Wierzycka told The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield that spending this money to protect government officials is “absurd” and “highly questionable”.
“If you just cut the budget in half, you would have about R1 billion to protect people who are trying – in their own, individual capacity – to protect South Africa.”