South Africans have guns pointed at their heads while politicians are given more VIP bodyguards

South Africans have guns pointed at their heads while politicians are given more VIP bodyguards
The SAPS VIP blue-light brigade. (Photo: X, formerly Twitter, @kg007man)

The City of Joburg team benefiting from VIP services to the tune of R3m a month didn’t even bother to do risk assessments on the public servants receiving enhanced protection services.

Dear DM168 readers,

About 15 years ago, I had to contend with a 9mm pistol being shoved in my face as I sat in the driver’s seat of a car. But it wasn’t a threatening situation. I was on an anti-hijacking course and the former Brixton Murder and Robbery Unit detective running the course showed participants what to do before shoving a real gun into our faces so that we could experience what it would be like to be hijacked and, hopefully, we’d remember how to stay safe.

The correct thing to do in this situation is to immediately put your hands up to show your attacker that you’re complying with their wishes. Try not to look at them, but tell them that you’re going to unhook your seatbelt and then continue to do so with your left hand. Don’t reach with your right hand because they will assume you’re reaching for a weapon and they might hurt you.

After you undo your seatbelt, keep your hands up and open the door, again using your left hand. Leave the keys in the ignition. Don’t do anything silly like throwing the keys out of the car. “Your car is not worth your life,” is what the detective said to us over and over again, because he wanted us to understand that if we did anything stupid, we would likely be killed.

A few years later, my sister was leaving work in downtown Joburg and found herself stuck in traffic when a guy ran up to her car and pointed a gun at her head. She did not do what I taught her from that anti-hijacking course. Adrenaline kicked in, she saw a gap in the traffic and stepped on the accelerator. She didn’t get far, maybe 10m, but she spooked the gunman, who immediately ran away. She was traumatised after that and, 10 years later, she still gets nervous when she has to drive through the Joburg CBD.

A friend’s husband has been hijacked twice. The first time, he was roughed up, despite complying with his attacker, and they took his Toyota Fortuner. The second time, he negotiated with the hijacker, paid him R2,000 and got to keep his new Fortuner.

How many of us have stories like these? How many of us have been victims of crime or have lost loved ones to crime? The answer is too many.

Yet, while all South Africans live in a mildly panic-stricken state thanks to our alarming crime rates, we learnt this week that the Joburg executive mayor, Kabelo Gwamanda, now has 10 bodyguards and eight luxury vehicles assigned to him. As I read Daily Maverick associate editor Ferial Haffajee’s story on Monday, 8 April, about the ridiculous amount of money that you and I are paying for city office bearers to have VIP bodyguards, I had to take a few deep breaths to calm down. In addition to all the police personnel, 40 cars are being removed from the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department’s fleet – officers and cars that would normally be used to serve the public.

Of course, there are instances when certain high-profile politicians and public servants need protection. A case in point is Cape Town City municipal manager Lungelo Mbandazayo, who had his protection detail beefed up after he blacklisted a construction company belonging to Nicole Johnson, the wife of a suspected gang boss. We can all appreciate that the threat to his life is a real one.

However, as Daily Maverick crime reporter Vincent Cruywagen writes in the DM168 lead story this week, the City of Joburg team benefiting from VIP services to the tune of R3-million a month didn’t even bother to do risk assessments on the public servants receiving enhanced protection services. It will make your blood boil even more to learn that security analysts say that the ever-increasing blue-lights budget is having a detrimental effect on visible policing, crime intelligence and combatting crime and corruption across South Africa.

Needless to say, our lead story this week is a must-read, as are several stories in this edition. Read about the slippery-as-an-eel David Mahlobo, who is number 13 on the ANC’s elections list despite having been red-flagged by the party’s Integrity Commission (page 5); how the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu would “really spook the markets” if the EFF gets its wish and he becomes our finance minister (page 40); and the complex battles at Netball South Africa that involve serious allegations against its president (page 61).

There’s so much more in your favourite weekly newspaper, including a terribly important story on page 24 about how chocolate may be good for your heart and your mood.

In other news, Malawian journalist Macmillan Mhone was recently arrested after writing a story in which a politically connected businessman was accused of corruption. Mhone is being indicted under the ridiculous-sounding charge of “publication of news likely to cause fear and alarm” in a country where press freedom is under increasing threat from the state.

Thankfully, we still have a free press in South Africa, but how long it remains free and how long we still have journalists holding the powerful to account is entirely up to you, dear readers. If you value the work of journalists, show your support because we need it now more than ever. Become a Daily Maverick Insider by signing up here and subscribe to our brilliant weekly newspaper here.

The cover price for DM168 is going up this week to R35, but readers who have taken annual subscriptions for home deliveries will still benefit from a discounted price.

Please don’t forget to send your thoughts about our stories or anything else to [email protected] and we might feature your submission on our readers’ page.

Yours in defence of truth,


This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    The trajectory of mismanagement increases,where is it gonna end

  • Kevin Venter says:

    And this article highlights a few points:
    1. Absolute abuse of power and waste of public funds to have security around officials who haven’t been found to have any risk of harm.
    2. Those very officials will then systematically deny the crime problem in the country because they are not affected by it since they have bodyguards around them.
    3. Tax payers, I repeat that, TAX PAYERS, bearing the brunt of the criminals.
    4. Tax payers, I repeat that, TAX PAYERS supporting the welfare state because the government has FAILED in its mandate to provide the conditions for a thriving economy so that we can get more people into jobs and a dignified existence.

    The ANC’s inaction on corruption and the systematic abysmal waste of tax payers money is going to be their own undoing. Coalition Goverment, which seems to be a very real possibility is going to be even worse because political positioning and blame gaming is then going to hinder any kind of forward progress. Sad to say it, but it is going to get a LOT worse before it gets any better, if it ever gets any better. The voters have been lied to and sold a BS story just so that the ANC could stay in power and pillage the money for as long as possible. The only hope South Africa has is for the voters to wake up.

    • James McMichael says:

      Yup, the ANC is systemically rotten to the core and as long as “our people” continue to vote for this pitiless bunch of (incompetent) race grifters, they will face the harsh daily impacts of being able “to fool some of the pe0ple, all of the time”.

    • Neels Pienaar says:

      There you are absolutely correct. It all fall on the taxpayers. Why all the guards and all the fancy cars and the use of all the fuel. They don’t care because it’s all be paying by taxpayers. What a incredible miss use. Why don’t Kieswetter from SARS who every morning on the news threatening South Africans about their tax put an end to all this waste and stop threatening poor people. I bet he got a escort of guards too. Who do they think they really are. Kings.

    • William Kelly says:

      Stop being a taxpayer then. As for Kieswetter the less said about him the better – he advocates morality and abdicates the responsibility, by delegating it to the once every five years vote thing. It’s a sweet sweet position he puts himself into as the preacher.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    You get those that want to be protected to make them look visible, as well as for bullying innocent commuters (ego trip/ ANC), and then those who actually fight crime and wish they were less visible. (Lungelo Mbandazayo/DA).

  • William Kelly says:

    #RatesBoycott. No risk assessment needed.

    • Bob D says:

      The presence amd escalation of blue light brigades reflects to what extent SA is now firmly cemented as a Banana Republic. And the laughing stock of the civilised world. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. DECOLONIZATION COMPLETED.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Most of those cops will not make 1 arrest in their whole career at vip protection

  • Go and read the book Thy Will be Done….by Peter Conway. Then you will understand where those guns come from. South African Politics are a bigger sesspit than you could ever imagine.

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