The Democratic Alliance is questioning the scale and cost of this Friday’s National Police Day celebration in Bloemfontein, saying it will divert 50 000 officers – just less than one in every three in the country – away from active duty for three days.
Party police shadow minister Dianne Kohler Barnard adds officials “in several provinces have raised concerns with the DA over the enormous cost of the event, which will include meals, accommodation, transport and entertainment.
“We understand that numerous station commissioners are fuming over the likely impact on crime-fighting operations over the three days when officers are away. In Langa police station in the Western Cape, for instance, the event will apparently leave just 20 of the station’s 80 active officers on duty. In Port Elizabeth, we understand 650 officers will be sent to the event. Gauteng stands to lose more than 10 000 officials, and the Western Cape about 6500 officials.”
But the police denied this. National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele’s spokeswoman Assistant Commissioner Nonkululeko Mbatha said she had “no idea on where those figures came from, this day was carefully planned with everything taken into account… we are taking these members to Bloemfontein because they deserve a moral booster.
“Yes, there’s going to be 50 000 officers in attendance, but does the DA know that we have 188,000 officers in South Africa? They speak about accommodation… accommodation for what? This is a one-day event.”
Kohler Barnard said she understood the police was budgeting approximately R420 per officer for transport to- and from Bloemfontein, “which would bring the total cost of transport to about R21 million.” Meals to be given to officers while being bussed appear to be costing somewhere in the region of R7.5 million. This, however, excludes further meal costs during the event itself.
“We have not been able to ascertain accommodation costs. However, at a very conservative estimate of R100 per night, per officer, over two nights, we would be looking at the very least at another R10 million.
We also know that an array of entertainment will be provided, including at least five big-name South African musicians, and gala dinners. All of this means that we can expect the entire event to cost, at the very least, about R40 million, though a more realistic figure is probably somewhere in the region of R50-R70 million.
According to a media report yesterday, Mbatha said that the DA’s figures were “not in the least bit correct.” Speaking on Sunday she said the “figures are really over the top… the full cost of the event will be released tomorrow [Monday].”
By this morning, no figures had been made available, Kohler Barnard said. The Citizen however quotes Mbatha as saying: “The information on the budget would be made available in due course. It would be before the event or even after the event.”
Kohler Barnard said in response that this “sort of expenditure needs to be understood in the context of record backlogs in our forensic science laboratories, record numbers of lost and stolen case dockets, record delays in our 10111 call centres, and the dramatic year-on-year spike in the overall crime rate.
“We cannot fathom how spending R40 million on a party in Bloemfontein for an event usually celebrated provincially, could be the right kind of decision, even while such pressing resourcing issues exist,” the DA MP said.