Tax payers to dig deep for councillors' safety
ETHEKWINI Metro Municipality ratepayers are set to bear the burden of paying for additional protection for city councillors.
With province's politicians gripped by fear following a spate of political killings over the past five years, the city has set aside an additional R10-million for their security.
The city has 11 councillors who have bodyguards at a cost of R1.4-million a month.
The city began providing security after three councillors were assassinated within a period of two years. In the adjustment for 2012-2013 financial year, an additional R10-million for councillors' safety has been requested.
The cost of protecting the councillors increased from nearly R2-million in the last financial year to R18-million in the current financial year. The current proposal is expected to increase the protection budget to R28-million.
Opposition parties have contested the move, saying that such spending on bodyguards was unnecessary.
DA chief whip Dean Macpherson said while the province had lost a number of councillors over the last couple of years and steps should be taken to ensure the safety of public representatives, ''it is important to understand the nature of the threats".
''One needs to establish whether these are borne out of factional disputes in political parties or due to councillors not doing the job they are elected to do by their communities," he said.
He said that until such time a full report on councillors' security is made available for scrutiny, it is impossible to determine if such expenditure is justified.
"We believe that there can be no price on a life, but security measures must be guided by an adopted policy and open to oversight by the standing committees and full council," he said.
eThekwini Metro spokesman Thabo Mofokeng yesterday maintained that the R10-million was not being taken from other services.
"The money has been there in the budget for the security of councillors. The city does not just wake up and decide to provide security to the councillors. There are processes in place that involve police intelligence.
''The security situation of councillors will go through processes with police doing a proper threat analysis."
The protected eThekwini Metro councillors are not the only ones whose lives are in danger.
At least six councillors in various KwaZulu-Natal municipalities have been killed in the past 15 months, with 33 people from the NFP, IFP and ANC having been killed in politically related murders since 2008.
Two weeks ago Umtshezi municipality councillor, Jimmy Lembethe was shot and killed in his home near Estcourt.
Two NFP councillors in Msinga and Nquthu were shot and killed in July. In June Hibiscus Coast municipality councillor, Wandile Mkhize, was shot and killed near his home in Margate.
Two NFP councillors, Nompumelelo Ndlela and Sakha Siyaya, in the Abaqulusi municipality are in hiding fearing for their lives after it surfaced last week that they were allegedly on a hit list.
To put an end to the politically related killings in the province Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa deployed two senior police officers to work with a provincial police task team investigating political killings in the province.