NEWS
22/03/2018 07:48 SAST | Updated 22/03/2018 07:48 SAST

VIP Protection Services Spending Balloons Under Zuma

The secretive protection unit's budget far exceeded that of his predecessor when former president Jacob Zuma was in power.

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA  FEBRUARY 12: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT): A motorcade with ANC members during the partys National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the St Georges Hotel over President Jacob Zumas future on February 12, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. After a 13-hour-long meeting, the ANC NEC resolved to recall Zuma after he refused to resign immediately as head of state. (Photo by Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
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PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA FEBRUARY 12: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT): A motorcade with ANC members during the partys National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the St Georges Hotel over President Jacob Zumas future on February 12, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. After a 13-hour-long meeting, the ANC NEC resolved to recall Zuma after he refused to resign immediately as head of state. (Photo by Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The amount spent by the VIP protection services to protect politicians ballooned during Zuma's time in office, according to a report by the Institute for Race Relations. Business Day reported that, according to the report, the unit's budget was R138-million in 2000, and will reach R1.7-billion in 2020.

The unit, which falls under SAPS, reportedly provides protection for the president, deputy president, former president, their spouses and dignitaries.

During Zuma's term in office, the VIP protection services' budget rose from R353-million in 2008/09 to R1.5-billion in 2018/19. According to the IRR's head of politics and governance, Gareth van Onselen, during Zuma's 10 years in office, officially ending next year, a total of R9.5-billion will have been spent on VIP protection, Business Day reported. This is compared to the total of R2.3-billion spent on the unit during former president Thabo Mbeki's two terms in office.

While the unit is well-funded, it operates in secret with little oversight, the report found.

The unit is "shrouded in bureaucratic obfuscation", Van Onselen reportedly said. For example, Zuma regularly used chartered planes while the presidential jet was in for repairs but it is still not known on what basis the flights were chartered.

Last year, News24 reported that the unit secretly provided protection to the Guptas on five separate occasions during the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup. It was also under scrutiny during the run-up to the ANC's elective conference in December when it emerged that candidate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was not a member of Cabinet then, was given VIP protection.

The Herald reported in February that VIP protection staff allowances were temporarily frozen amid claims that the unit's budget had run dry. In a memo, the police reportedly said this was the case until a transfer of extra funds from Treasury was approved.