R1m for Tshwane cops' EC beach bash

A hearse carries Madiba on its way to Qunu, accompanied by motorbike officers. (AFP)

A hearse carries Madiba on its way to Qunu, accompanied by motorbike officers. (AFP)

After spending almost a million rand on travel, accommodation and assorted costs with the aim of escorting foreign dignitaries at former president Nelson Mandela's Qunu funeral in the Eastern Cape, Tshwane metro officers were told by the military when they got there: "Thanks, but no thanks."

Consequently, some of the officers ended up lazing around at a nearby beach and hotel, on the city's tab.

The military – which was in charge of Madiba's funeral – apparently questioned why the Tshwane motorbike officers travelled more than 1 000km from the capital to the Eastern Cape to escort heads of state from the Mthatha Airport, when the province had its own officers. The officers travelled down in two buses from Pretoria; their 60 motorcycles were transported separately.

The Mail & Guardian spoke to four officers, two of whom were deployed in Qunu, where Mandela was buried. They refused to be named for fear of reprisal. Most travelled on Friday December 13 and arrived in the early hours of Saturday December 14.

After they were snubbed, the officers ended up casually escorting some less prominent Mandela relatives on the subsequent Sunday, when the funeral took place.

Motorbike escort
One of the officers showed the M&G pictures of the Tshwane motorbike parade escorting a group of mourners, including ANC MP Chief Patekile Holomisa.

Tshwane metro spokesperson Blessing Manale insisted on Wednesday that the officers "participated fully" during the entire national state funeral, including the funeral procession in the Eastern Cape.

But one of the officers contradicted Manale's version. He said that the team spent the whole of Saturday, the day before the funeral, at their hotel and even found time to visit the nearest beach.

"We were told we could not come near the airport. The military guys told us that we should never cross into Qunu," said the officer.

"We were holed up at our hotel," another officer said. "We then took our [hired] bus to the beach to chill."

Lack of communication
The Tshwane metro police department's internal report on the Qunu trip mentioned "lack of trust between role-players" and "lack of communication between role-players" as the main problems.

After the funeral, the officers' superior instructed them to escort Gauteng mayors – including Tshwane's Kgosientso Ramokgopa and Johannesburg's Parks Tau – to the airport.

The internal report stated that the officers escorted "dignitaries of the city of Tshwane, Johannesburg and high delegation from government, as well as neighbouring kings".

 
Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Mmanaledi Mataboge is the Mail & Guardian's political editor. Raised in a rural village, she later studied journalism in a township where she fell in love with the medium of radio. This former radio presenter and producer previously worked as a senior politics reporter for the Mail & Guardian, and writes on politics, government, and anything that gives the disadvantaged, poor, and the oppressed a voice. Read more from Mmanaledi Mataboge

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