President Cyril Ramaphosa’s security has been beefed up following serious concerns about numerous security breaches that have occurred during some of his official engagements.
Ramaphosa’s security detail was also increased for his address on Friday at the SACP’S 15th national congress, which was held at the Birchwood hotel in Ekurhuleni.
It is understood that a security assessment showed that Ramaphosa’s opponents, who on Friday marched to the party’s Luthuli House headquarters to demand his resignation, also planned to march from central Johannesburg to the Birchwood hotel to disrupt his speech and demand his resignation.
Senior party members belonging to a faction aligned to suspended ANC general secretary Ace Magashule and former president Jacob Zuma took to Luthuli House with a handful of their supporters to demand Ramaphosa’s resignation in the wake of the Phala Phala game farm theft scandal.
ANC leaders who led the march included short-lived finance minister Des van Rooyen, former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo and Magashule’s staunch supporter, Carl Niehaus.
It has emerged that Magashule’s supporters had timed their march to coincide with Ramaphosa’s address at the Birchwood hotel, which was heavily guarded by the time Ramaphosa arrived.
Two sources within the security establishment said the embattled head of the Presidential Protection Unit, Wally Rhoode, took the “extraordinary” step of dispatching all the special teams at his disposal to stand on guard for anything that could undermine Ramaphosa’s security.
“They were planning to come this side. The president’s security was here from Wednesday. Rhoode released the whole task force. They were ready for those people. The whole place was guarded,” a source said.
He said some security personnel were also deployed to sit among delegates.
Rhoode, who normally doesn’t accompany Ramaphosa everywhere he goes, was present at the SACP congress, marshalling the security around the president. When approached for comment Niehaus said, “That’s an utter rubbish, an absolute nonsense. Why would I go and disrupt a disorganized gathering. This is a propaganda of stratcom.”
Concerns for Ramaphosa’s safety were heightened after a number of embarrassing security breaches, including the incident that took place during the ANC’S January 8 anniversary celebrations in Polokwane.
Ramaphosa, his deputy David Mabuza and some cabinet ministers had to spend more than 15 minutes in darkness after a power outage at Protea’s The Ranch hotel, outside Polokwane.
The generator did not kick in immediately after the electricity went out.
The president also had to be whisked away from the Lilian Ngoyi memorial lecture at the Lebowakgomo Civic Centre. The lecture was part of the birthday celebrations.
On May 1, Ramaphosa was forced to abandon the Worker’s Day rally organised by Cosatu after workers booed and heckled him. He had to be escorted out of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in a police Nyala.
On Wednesday, national commissioner Fanie Masemola announced that Rhoode would no longer report straight to him but to the commissioner for protection and security services, Samson Shitlabane.
This comes after former State Security Agency director-general Arthur Fraser laid a criminal complaint against Ramaphosa, in which he alleges that the president and Rhoode conspired to cover up the May 2020 farm robbery that saw thieves making off with an estimated $4-million.
There were also concerns about security of those around the president. Last month, Presidency director-general Phindile Baleni received a threatening letter containing a bullet in her mailbox.
A source in the Presidency said the president was angry about those threatening his security. “I don’t know what makes people think they can run on top of the president.”
Ramaphosa used the SACP congress to draw a line in the sand, saying “I will not be intimidated, nor distracted, nor bullied into submission”.
“As we emerge from the era of state capture, we must be fervent on the principle that no person, not a single person, is above the law and that everyone, regardless of their position, must be held accountable for their actions,” he said.
Newly elected SACP secretary general Solly Mapaila said there was a fightback by those who benefited from state capture.
“When you see what is now happening, it is precisely the fact that the rogue elements inside the security system could not accept the changes that are taking place, and the processes that should lead to accountability,” he said.
It is also expected that security will be tight at the ANC policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre later this month.
– Sunday World