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South Africa’s VIP protection budget up by R1.7bn? Radio presenter gets increase wrong

Police Minister Bheki Cele says cabinet has approved R3.4bn in budget cuts for general crime fighting for ordinary citizens but has upped VIP Protection by R1.7bn,” reads a tweet by Bongani Bingwa, presenter on South Africa’s 702 radio station. It’s been shared more than 1,400 times. 

A screenshot of the tweet has been circulating on Facebook, where other users have repeated the claim. (Note: The figure was also shared by Gun Owners South Africa. Read our fact-check here.)

The annual police budget vote speech was presented to parliament by police minister Bheki Cele on 20 May 2021. 

Cele told parliament: “Excluding the reductions on compensation of employees, Cabinet has approved reductions on the department’s baseline amounting to R3.4 billion over the medium term.” 

But was the VIP protection budget increased by R1.7 billion? We checked. 

PoliceBudgetIncorrect

What is the VIP protection budget?

South Africa’s police budget is separated into five programmes: administration, visible policing, detective services, crime intelligence, and protection and security services. Each programme has different objectives and financial needs.

The VIP protection services budget falls under the protection and security services programme. It provides protection to the president, deputy president, former presidents, their spouses, and “other identified dignitaries while they are in transit”.

VIP budget increased by R26 million to R1.7 billion

Police budget documents show that the VIP protection service budget was increased by R26 million, from R1.68 billion in the 2020/21 financial year to R1.71 billion in 2021/22. 

Police ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba told Africa Check that the 2020/21 VIP protection budget of R1.8 billion was adjusted mid-year to R1.68 billion because of Covid-19 restricting movement and travel in 2020.

She said the 2021/22 police budget increase took the possibility that travel restrictions might be lifted into account. 

The VIP protection budget is expected to increase to R1.73 billion by 2023/24.

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