Two-thirds of the mayors in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have bodyguards.
Mayors should not have more than two bodyguards according to a 2018 note by the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta). The only deviation from the rule is if the South African Police Service recommends additional security.
The Outlier looked at the most recent annual financial statement on the Treasury website to see how many mayors, deputy mayors, speakers and municipal managers have bodyguards and how many have more than two. The most recent statements cover 2019/2020.
According to those records, a quarter of South Africa’s mayors have bodyguards. Of this number, more than a third have more than two bodyguards each.
In Buffalo City (East London), the security for the mayor, deputy mayor and speaker cost the municipality R11.9-million in 2020 for a total of 14 bodyguards for three people. The Outlier contacted the city for a breakdown of how many bodyguards specifically guarded the mayor – we have not yet received a response.
It is not only mayors who have bodyguards.
Across the country, 28 deputy mayors, 32 speakers and two municipal managers also had bodyguards during the 2019/20 financial year.
And in some cases in KwaZulu-Natal, councillors themselves had bodyguards.
In Estcourt, the Inkosi Langalibalele local municipality, seven councillors had a full-time bodyguard. The municipality’s chief whip had two full-time bodyguards and a night security officer for his residence.
Unfortunately not all of the annual financial statements were as detailed as Inkosi Langalibalele’s with some municipalities saying their councils provided “private security at residences” (City of Mbombela) or supplied bodyguards, “24 hour security and a backup vehicle” (Endumeni the municipality for Dundee).
Are local government officials really in danger?
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, a study by the South African Local Government Local Government Association with the Human Science Research Council found that South Africa was experiencing “a rise in local government-related political violence” with 89 councillors killed between 2000 and 2018.
The research analysed media and conducted surveys and interviews with municipal managers, senior municipal officials and ward councillors.
The main source of threats of violence against local politicians was from community members over their frustration with poor service delivery.
Ironically, the study noted that almost three-quarters of the counsellors who spoke to the researchers found that the violence and threats prevented them “from effectively carrying out their duties”.
“Councillors must always be visible and accessible to the communities. If you have received threats and you get a complaint at night, then it is difficult for you to attend to those complaints. It is difficult to attend to complaints without security or assessment of the area on how safe it is for you,” according to one respondent in the study.
In 2017, Richmond deputy mayor Thandazile Phoswa was shot and killed in her home. At the time, the municipality had assigned her only one full-time bodyguard/driver. Two years later, Richmond’s new deputy mayor had two full-time bodyguards.
Data was collected from the MFMA section on the Treasury website using the most recent set of annual financial statements available (2019/20). Where there was no explicit mention of the number of bodyguards, for instance, ”The Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Speaker have full-time bodyguards”. The assumption was made that there were at least two bodyguards employed for each official.
The Outlier approached the City of Cape Town and the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality for information on the bodyguards protecting the mayors. We will add this data once we receive it.
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