Cops probe blue light assault

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iol news pic Siphosezwe Masango

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

File picture of Mpumalanga human settlements MEC Siphosezwe Masango. Picture: Herbert Matimba

Mpumalanga police confirmed on Monday they were investigating a case of assault after a man claimed to have been attacked by the bodyguards of human settlements MEC Siphosezwe Masango.

“We still have to collect a statement from a traffic officer and a security guard, who was on the scene, before the investigations proceed,” said investigating officer Muzi Gama, of the Kaapmuiden police.

The alleged attack occurred at the Nkomazi tollgate on Thursday.

The MEC's office has refused to comment on the matter.

“The matter is being investigated by police,” department spokesman Freddy Ngobe said on Monday morning.

Gert van der Merwe, 38, told the Beeld newspaper that Masango's white Mercedes-Benz with flashing blue lights sped past cars waiting to pass through the tollgate on Thursday morning.

“The car passed oncoming traffic at high speed crossing over a solid line,” the newspaper reported.

At the tollgate, Van der Merwe apparently stopped behind Masango and shouted that the driver was reckless. He said Masango's car stopped when the boom closed in front of his car.

“When I wanted to pay, I saw the driver and another man get out of the car. They walked to my car and shouted: 'What is your problem?',” Van der Merwe told the newspaper.

One of the guards had a pistol in his hand and the other pepper spray.

Van der Merwe said he got out of his car to confront the pair, at which time a third person, believed to be Masango, also got out of the vehicle.

Van der Merwe was allegedly hit on the head and pepper was sprayed.

“I knew I needed to get away and I pulled myself free,” he said.

He reportedly ran towards the Kaapmuiden police station, about 400 metres from the tollgate. The bodyguards ran after him.

Beeld published a picture showing Van der Merwe running with two men behind him.

In the meantime, a traffic official in one of the accompanying cars led Masango from the scene and shortly afterwards the bodyguards returned and sped off.

Beeld reported that Masango had been on his way to a memorial service for those killed in an accident between a truck and train last week in Tonga.

Gama said there was a video of the incident at the tollgate, but that it had not yet been viewed by the police.

Incidents involving blue light brigades have made headlines in the past year.

Earlier in July, a bodyguard for KwaZulu-Natal's former social development MEC Meshack Radebe was found guilty of illegally discharging his firearm and his colleague was found guilty of negligent driving.

The bodyguard shot the tyre of a Mazda near Camperdown, resulting in the driver losing control and colliding head-on with a bakkie. Eight people were injured in the accident in 2008.

The driver of Gauteng local government MEC Humphrey Mmemezi's VIP vehicle allegedly knocked West Rand teenager Thomas Ferreira off his motorbike.

The November 2011 accident left Ferreira comatose, brain-damaged and in need of long-term rehabilitation. He spent weeks in a coma after the accident, and faces expensive, long-term rehabilitation. – Sapa


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