MECs bodyguards feeling exploited

The bodyguards of MECs in North West say there have already been in three car crashes this year, compared to two the whole of last year, but the accidents were not reported to 'protect their bosses'.
The bodyguards of MECs in North West say there have already been in three car crashes this year, compared to two the whole of last year, but the accidents were not reported to 'protect their bosses'.
Image: Lebohang Mashiloane

MECs' bodyguards in North West say they are overworked and fatigued, and this has led to an increase in car crashes when transporting VIPs.

They said they were worried their "unreasonable long working" hours could result in them being involved in more serious accidents.

Three bodyguards who spoke to Sowetan and asked not to be named for fear of losing their jobs, said their problems began in March when the provincial government decided to reduce the number of VIP protectors from four to two per MEC.

They said they had already had three crashes this year compared to only two for the whole of last year.

"Some protectors and VIPs were hospitalised with minor injuries as a result of the accidents," said one of them.

However, he said they did not report the accidents as they had to "protect" their bosses. He said in one of the collisions, an MEC's car hit an animal, and in another one, the driver lost control and overturned.

They said on a normal basis they start work at 7am to drive MECs to their destinations and wait for them to finish.

If the MEC feels hungry, they take them to a restaurant and if the particular MEC is generous, they get invited to the dinner table. If not, they wait in the car.

They said they did not only transport them for official government matters. "We even drive them to ANC meetings and personal matters."

By the time they get home, it could be around 3am with the hope that the MEC does not wake them up three hours later to drive them somewhere.

All bodyguards working in North West have written a letter to management raising their grievances where they blamed the current management for "creating an unfavourable working environment".

The three said the management style of their boss Brigadier Berry Maphumulo was questionable because he seemed not to understand what was expected from them.

"We believe that he is. blank and does not know what our job entails on the ground," one of the guards said.

When contacted by Sowetan, Maphumulo said he could not discuss the security issue with newspapers as it involved the lives of MECs.

"For any security person to discuss that with the media, it's a serious breach of security, I want to know who the source is because this compromises information," Maphumulo said.

He said the members concerned were given the necessary attention and that their grievances were attended to.

A third guard said sometimes they travelled up to 800km a day. "Imagine driving from Pretoria to Tosca; that's almost over 600km nonstop. We stay there for two hours and again you have to drive the MEC back to where his or her destination would be."

The bodyguards also complained about spending less time with their families and said when they raised that with management they were told that it was part of their job.

"I went to a psychologist recently because my marriage was under threat," one said.

"My wife questioned that it was the first time she had heard there was a job that you never knock off. She was thinking that I was having extramarital affairs."

The letter by the guards reads: "They [management] do not have our interest at heart, they only put their interest first, we do not feel safe and protected under this management."

They said according to SA Police Service policy they were supposed to work seven days on and seven days out.

"It does not happen with us, we are drained. Sometimes we drive because we are forced to. We are putting our lives and other people's lives in danger," one guard said.

Police spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said it was an internal matter. "We will not be discussing the matter further in the public domain."

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