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Durban - A Durban motorist who was “sandwiched” between an official’s car and one apparently driven by members of the VIP Protection Unit feared for his life when at least five shots were fired at him on the N3 near the Mariannhill Toll Plaza on Tuesday afternoon.
The 24-year-old man, Wynand, who did not want his full name made public, said he was shot at, allegedly by a VIP protection unit officer escorting a KwaZulu-Natal mayor.
On Tuesday night, provincial transport spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said although he had not been told officially about the incident it was a “very serious” allegation.
“We will be investigating (the incident) and make sure that the law takes its course. The MEC will comment further as soon as we have more details.”
Wynand said he was travelling from Pietermaritzburg towards the Mariannhill tollgate when a white Prado and Corolla passed him. After going through the toll plaza, he ended up behind the Prado. Then he noticed the driver of the Corolla behind him, flashing its lights.
“There were vehicles next to me, so I could not move over. I was doing 135km/h, so I was already over the speed limit. As we came around a corner, he (the driver of the Corolla) pushed his way through and drove next to me, then pushed me off the road,” Wynand said.
He braked and then drove alongside the Corolla, trying to ask the passenger what was going on by signalling in a questioning manner.
“The passenger in the Corolla rolled down his window, pointed his gun and fired two shots,” said Wynand, who braked hard.
Wynand stopped at the side of the freeway and so did the driver of the Corolla. The passenger then got out of his car and ran towards him, pointing the gun. Fearing for his life, the young motorist started reversing, trying to get away.
“Then I heard all the shots go off,” said Wynand, as the passenger shot at him at least three times. Desperate to escape he reversed over the centre island and drove off in the opposite direction.
“The man climbed back in the vehicle and they carried on driving,” said Wynand.
He eventually got back on to the southbound lane, wanting to drive to his office to report the incident. He later saw that the same Corolla had been pulled over by metro police officers near the “Spaghetti Junction”.
He stopped and asked the metro officer and the men from the Corolla what was going on.
“I asked the driver who he was, and he said he was from VIP protection. He told me ‘the mayor’ was in the Prado and I was a threat. He said they have a ‘shoot to kill policy’ if the mayor’s life is in danger.”
The driver refused to produce any identification and told Wynand that how they operated was none of his concern.
“I did not make way for him. That is the only reason they did this,” said Wynand.
He said there was a blue light in the car, but it was not flashing.
He opened a case at the Pinetown police station on Tuesday night.
The Corolla had a registration that started with a G, meaning it was a government car.
Metro police spokesman Eugene Msomi was unable to comment as he had not yet been made aware of the incident.
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs spokesman Lennox Mabaso said: “Verification of the vehicle will have to be established through the Department of Transport. At this stage we will caution against jumping to conclusions and pointing fingers at mayors, as the majority of mayors in KZN use vehicles that are registered in their respective areas.”
IFP spokesman Petros Sithole said: “The police need to be trained properly because they don’t protect our civilians.
“This is a direct result of (former national police chief Bheki Cele’s ‘Police must shoot to kill, worry later’ philosophy.”
“If there was such a major emergency, why were they not visible? Why were their lights not on?”
DA spokeswoman on police matters Dianne Kohler Barnard said: “This is outrageous behaviour. Especially in KZN, time after time, you hear cases of the ‘blue lights’ attacking civilians. It is a banana republic, they are out of control and they should not be in those positions.”
Last month, shots were fired at Port Shepstone restaurateur Leanne Douglas’s car by pursuing police after she had failed to stop for an unmarked police vehicle. Douglas, 45, died after at least five police bullets struck her blue Chevrolet Spark, causing it to flip on the N2 near Umkomaas.
In 2008, Anuvasen Moodley allegedly braked in front of a blue-light brigade transporting KZN MEC for Social Development, Meshack Radebe. This caused a VIP protection unit member, Hlanganani Nxumalo, to fire two warning shots in the air, causing Moodley to lose control of his car, leading to a collision with a bakkie.
A second incident in 2011 saw the blue light police deliberately cause an accident with another vehicle. Jim Wichstrom had been frightened by the blue-light police coming too close to his car and turning on their sirens. He responded by changing lanes and showed them his middle finger.
On seeing this, the police deliberately slowed down and swerved in front of him, causing a collision.
Then they got out the car and started pushing and shoving Wichstrom.