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South Africans pay R42 million for Blue Light Brigade’s petrol

Government has spent over R42 million in the last six years for petrol and diesel used by its VIP protection services, also referred to as the “Blue Light Brigade”, revealed police minister Bheki Cele in a recent parliamentary Q&A.

This equates to a massive R583,000 monthly fuel bill that must be footed by the South African taxpayer.

Taxpayer’s massive petrol bill

The South African Police Services’ (SAPS) VIP Protection Unit is responsible for the in-transit protection of state representatives, including the president and vice president, former presidents, cabinet ministers, members of the executive council, as well as visiting foreign dignitaries.

According to Cele, R34 million was spent on the fuel used by VIP cars between 2018 and 2022, most of which went to convoys in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

Another R8 million was blown between March 2023 and March 2024 – R2.2 million of which was spent in Gauteng alone.

While it is unsurprising that Gauteng and the Western Cape would take up a significant share, as these provinces house the government union buildings and parliament, respectively, the second-biggest province in terms of spending since March 2023 was actually Mpumalanga, using R1.1 million worth of fuel in a year.

The amount of money spent by the government on its VIP escorts is virtually the same as what the SAPS is allocated for serious crimes.

The SAPS budget for the 2024/2025 financial year has R4 billion pegged for protection and security services, with R2.18 billion specifically going towards its VIP Protection Units, according to BusinessTech.

In comparison, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (colloquially known as The Hawks), which conducts special investigations into syndicates and organized crime, severe and violent crimes, and corruption, was afforded a budget of R2.4 billion.

In other words, South Africans pay roughly the same amount for the VIP escorts of 200 government officials as they do for the investigation of all serious crimes in the nation.

It’s also important to note that the national government has increased the SAPS VIP Unit budget by over 25% in the last five years, with the most recent mid-term budget going up by another R52 million.

Other police programmes, such as Crime Intelligence Operations and Crime Prevention, only saw their spending go up by 11.5% and 12.4%, respectively, over the same period.

“While South Africans are suffering from crushing cost of living, including higher fuel prices, ANC VIP cadres take the taxpayers for a ride without having to put their hands in their pockets,” said Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Andrew Whitfield, in response to the police minister’s report.

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