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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

SIU to hire armed bodyguards for its staff

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Johannesburg – Employees of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) will soon have up to five armed bodyguards to escort them between their workplaces across the country and their homes.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told Independent Media on Wednesday that there would be a panel of close armed protectors which would be used as and when the unit needed them.

He said the panel was both for the threats that have been made against SIU staff and also pre-empting those that might come in future.

However, Kganyago would not go into detail about the nature of the threats and who made them but added that they were most likely due to the sensitive matters the SIU deals with.

However, Independent Media understands that the close armed protectors will guard the more than 500 SIU employees without delay and are expected to detect threats faced by staff during investigations.

Their main objective will be to protect an employee and the employee’s immediate family.

Among the SIU’s staff compliment are a variety of skilled and semi-skilled professionals, not limited to forensic lawyers, forensic investigators, forensic accountants, forensic cyber examiners, and forensic data analysts, among others.

The SIU plans to appoint private companies, who will be responsible for providing a minimum of five close armed protectors, as and when required by the unit.

The close armed protection service must be provided to SIU employees, based on the recommendation of a threat and risk assessment report, concluded by the relevant authorities.

Protectors must be available for seven days a week, including public holidays, according to the SIU.

They will be required to assess threat levels and risks to employees, plan and prepare to minimise threats and risks, and liaise and communicate with employees and others.

Other requirements include establishing and maintaining secure environments at all times, and maintaining safety and security of employees, while on foot and in transit.

The SIU also wants the close protectors to maintain the safety and security of its employees during movement between venues, and to protect members of their immediate families at home.

The close armed protectors must be able to use control and restraint to support close protection, use physical intervention when necessary to support close protection, and maintain personal security awareness.

The protectors will be expected to commute between the SIU’s national and ten provincial and satellite offices, and other areas required by the employee under protection.

According to the SIU, the protectors must have appropriate firearms to assist in delivering the required services, safety and protective clothing, bullet proof vests and reflector jackets, which must be provided as and when needed, for the employee and her/his family, should they require them.

They will also need vehicles that are in good working condition to transport the SIU employees between home, the office, and any other assignment.

A year ago, SIU head Andy Mothibi told the National Assembly’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) that the unit’s employees were threatened while investigating Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) corruption.

At the time, Mothibi complained that some state officials – especially in supply chain management and finance – did not cooperate during SIU investigations and that this was largely due to their involvement in irregularities.

“This was largely because of their involvement in the irregular procurement process. Where there is non-cooperation voluntarily, then we would invoke the SIU powers, in terms of the legislation that enables us to investigate, and we would then proceed with the investigation,” he said.

Mothibi added that the SIU was forced to improvise and use opportunities for online interaction.

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