The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) says it has written an urgent letter to Police Minister Bheki Cele demanding answers on claims that former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete is receiving VIP protection from the state.
The party on Thursday said it was shocked to learn that Mbete, who served as South Africa’s deputy president in 2008, was receiving state protection services similar to what is legally reserved for former presidents or former deputy presidents.
The EFF said due to Mbete having been appointed the speaker of Parliament – from 21 May 2014 until 21 May 2019 – after her short stint as the country’s deputy president, she forfeited all benefits of being a former deputy president.
The party’s spokesperson Leigh-Ann Mathys said the state protection services allegedly being provided to Mbete were at odds with government’s rhetoric about implementing austerity measures in a bid to avoid wasteful expenditure.
“The EFF maintains that the rhetoric about cost-saving measures underpinning South Africa’s austerity fiscal policy only targets workers and the poor.
“Politicians and big businesses continue to enjoy state-sponsored privileges when police, health and education budgets continue to decrease, causing irreparable damage to the lives of South Africans. In addition, millions of women and children suffer gender-based violence without any protection from the police services,” Mathys said in a statement.
“The EFF will follow up on the matter to ensure no wasteful and irregular expenditure to provide unnecessary state protection services to Baleka Mbete when she is not entitled to such privileges.”
R8 million to protect one official
In October, Cele revealed in Parliament that over the past 21 years the cost of protecting South Africa’s government officials had ballooned astronomically by 1150%.
It costs roughly R8 million to protect just one VIP annually and the minister said the current VIP protection budget stood at R1.7 billion to protect 209 officials.
In the past, there has been calls to slash the South African Police Service’s (Saps’) budget by half and to redirect the funds to front-line policing.
Cele and National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole have twice admitted in Parliament that law enforcement is struggling to fulfill its mandate. Front-line policing has suffered after government slashed Saps’s budget by R3.8 billion this year.
At the same time, the Saps VIP budget got an impressive R26 million boost.
In 2000, the VIP protection budget was R138 million. As the decade progressed, the country’s Cabinet grew, which saw the VIP protection budget increase to R530 million by 2010.
In 2021, 11 years later, it costs taxpayers a staggering R1.7 billion to protect SA’s most elite citizens.