But controversial figures posing as security do little for Zuma's cause
Close Jacob Zuma associate Mo Shaik created a stir at the ANC conference in Polokwane by bringing along Cape Town underworld chief Cyril Beeka as his bodyguard.
It is understood the pair arrived at the University of Limpopo at the beginning of the event last Saturday, but made an early exit when the sight of Beeka raised the hackles of some of the Zuma camp.
The Saturday Star has been informed that he was accredited by the ANC in the capacity of a "service provider", and for the duration of his stay he shadowed Mo around the sprawling venue. It is further understood that former transport minister Mac Maharaj approached Shaik, telling him that not only did his position not warrant protection, but that controversial figures posing as security did little to help the Zuma cause.
Later, Maharaj denied that the conversation with Shaik took place - and also declined to confirm whether he was aware of Beeka's presence in Polokwane.
A former informant for Umkhonto weSizwe, Beeka (48) is no stranger to ANC circles. Yet ever since MK disbanded and Beeka went back to his home turf in Cape Town, he has been linked to underworld circles.
Drug trafficking, extortion, money-laundering, assault and forgery are all charges he has tried to evade over the years.There have also been unproven allegations of murder.
There was a point when he was referred to as the "lieutenant" to the Cape-based Mafioso Vito Palazzolo, and his name has also been linked with that of Yuri "the Russian" Ulianitski, who was gunned down in Cape Town with his 4-year-old-daughter in May.
Shaik has played a key role in campaigning for Zuma's ANC presidential win, a victory that is likely to bring the former diplomat back into the fold of South African politics.
The fact that a man so close to Zuma is linked to someone like Beeka is a concern for Hennie van Vuuren, the head of the corruption and governance programme at the Institute for Security Studies.
Zuma should now, more than ever, ensure that the integrity of his newly elected office is preserved at all times, Van Vuuren argues, "and this would include ensuring that his advisers and the people with whom they surround themselves are individuals of integrity.
"Where there are allegations that some of these individuals may bring his office into disrepute, then he must act decisively to ensure the confidence his electorate have placed in him is upheld," Van Vuuren says.
"One of the things he does have to ensure is that individuals who may have links to organised-crime figures, for example, should be kept at great distance from himself, given the other rumours and allegations of corruption that continue to besmirch him."