Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The amount spent on VIP protection services to safeguard politicians and dignitaries soared during former president Jacob Zuma’s term in office, a study by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) shows.

The report — titled SA’s Secret Police: Inside the Multi-billion Rand Clandestine VIP Protection Services — said the unit’s budget had ballooned from R138m in 2000-01 and would reach R1.7bn in 2020-2021. The VIP protection services provide for the safety of the president, deputy president, former presidents, their spouses and other identified dignitaries while in transit.

Gareth van Onselen, IRR head of politics and governance and author of Wednesday’s report, pointed out the massive increase during Zuma’s terms in office, during which costs rose from R353m in 2008-09 to R1.5bn in 2018-19. Van Onselen said budget projections showed that Ramaphosa was "set to inherit a behemoth".

South Africa's Secret Police - Inside the Multi-Billion Rand, Clandestine VIP Protection Services

VIP protection is extremely well funded, according to the report, but it effectively operates in secret and generally without accountability.

Van Onselen found that during the 10-year course of Zuma’s two terms — ending officially in 2018-19, with Ramaphosa finishing up the last year — a total of R9.5bn would have been spent on VIP protection services.

The nine-year total for former president Thabo Mbeki’s two administrations was R2.3bn, the report says.

Van Onselen said that the budget of VIP protection was "shrouded in bureaucratic obfuscation". It was still not known how or on what basis flights were chartered for VIP travel. Zuma flew in chartered planes multiple times during his term of office when the presidential jet Inkwazi was in for repairs.

Ramaphosa had recently flown to Botswana in a private jet owned by the Moti Company, because Inkwazi was once again in for repairs.

However, the president on Tuesday shared pictures of himself flying on South African Airways to Kigali, Rwanda, after he reportedly complained to Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula after his flight to Botswana on the jet, which has links to controversial businessman Zunaid Moti.