Durban - Bodyguards attached to Pietermaritzburg area mayor, Yusuf Bhamjee, are embroiled in fresh controversy after they were involved in an N3 crash that killed a 27-year-old motorist.
Andile Samuel Phungula was thrown from his car when it was hit by a Mercedes-Benz driven by one of the bodyguards for Bhamjee, uMgungundlovu District’s mayor, early on Monday.
uMgungundlovu municipal manager, S’bu Khuzwayo, said Bhamjee was travelling to Durban on municipal business when the collision happened. He would not divulge the nature of the business.
Khuzwayo said he had received an accident report, which would be referred to the municipality’s fleet management for further investigation and “rigorous scrutiny”.
It is alleged the Mercedes-Benz E Class sedan crashed into the rear of Phungula’s white Fiat Uno, which, said a family member, had been stationary at the side of the road.
The car had apparently broken down and, unable to get help, Phungula had stayed in it overnight until his brother arrived in the morning.
A source close to the investigation said the bodyguards claimed the Uno was stationary in the fast lane, a claim rejected by Phungula’s brother.
The accident happened on the highway near the Shongweni off-ramp at about 5.45am on Monday, according to police, who confirmed a third vehicle had been involved.
Phungula died at the scene while the two bodyguards had minor injuries and were treated and discharged from hospital. Their Mercedes was so badly damaged, it had to be towed away.
The bodyguards were escorting Bhamjee, who was in a Mercedes ML sports utility vehicle ahead of them.
“The ML was able to pass the Uno but the back-up vehicle (the E Class) crashed into a Nissan Navara before hitting the Uno from the back,” said the source.
On the claim that the broken-down car had been in the fast lane, the source noted that the mayoral vehicle had been able to avoid it.
Netcare 911 spokesman, Chris Botha, said on Monday that reports indicated that the Uno had broken down in the fast lane when “another vehicle came hurtling down the road and collided with the stationary vehicle, ripping it apart”.
Botha had said the occupant was ejected and died there.
Phungula’s younger brother, Khanyisani, confirmed the car had broken down on the N3 on Sunday night, but said his brother had taken precautions, including putting up a warning triangle.
“I got a call from him on Sunday at about 8pm. He assured me he had moved (the car) off the road although he remained on the side of the fast lane and that he had put up a warning triangle on the road.”
He said his brother was single and had worked for Value Logistics.
Khanyisani, who was in Hlokozi near Highflats at the time, said he was unable to help his brother on Sunday but had planned to go early the next morning.
“The next morning (Monday) at about 4am I phoned him and he told me he was still there on the side of the road.
“We (Khanyisani and an acquaintance) drove to Pinetown because I was with a person who had to go to Pinetown first, but later when we went to look for the car on the N3 we could not find it,” he said.
“I tried phoning my brother but his phone was off. I went back thinking that maybe he had received help from other people. Late in the afternoon I got a call from the police telling me the bad news.”
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said a case of culpable homicide was being investigated by Hillcrest SAPS. No arrests had been made and investigations were ongoing, he said.
Khanyisani said the mayor had not been in touch with the devastated family by on Tuesday afternoon. “I got a call from the police saying that the people who were involved in the accident wanted my number, but so far I have not heard from them.”
Khuzwayo said the mayor was “naturally very disturbed by this incident and was currently trying to establish contact with the family”.
KZN Department of Transport spokesman, Kwanele Ncalane, confirmed the accident but would not comment on the involvement of Bhamjee’s bodyguards.
“At this stage we are investigating the cause of the accident as the department and we will ensure the matter is investigated thoroughly,” he said.
The Daily News has established that the bodyguard who was driving the vehicle is one of the two men who were last year accused of shooting at a motorist, Wynand Rautenbach,who had allegedly refused to make way for Bhamjee’s convoy on the N3.
However, attempted murder charges against the bodyguards were dropped.
Rautenbach told the Daily News on Tuesday the latest incident showed once again that Bhamjee’s bodyguards behaved as if they were above the law.
“Had they been sentenced, none of this would have happened.
“Now a family has lost a loved one,” he said.
“Where is the surveillance footage or was it not working, as it was not working on the day of my incident?”
Bhamjee refused to comment and referred all questions to Khuzwayo.
The bodyguards were back at work after the crash.
In response to claims that the bodyguards were allegedly speeding, Khuzwayo said the investigation would leave no stone unturned.
On conclusion, the necessary processes would be undertaken, Khuzwayo said.
He said the municipality was “very concerned” about the crash because it came just months after the shooting incident.
Khuzwayo said disciplinary action had been taken against the mayor’s bodyguards in relation to the shooting incident.
He said he could not reveal the details, citing municipality employer-employee confidentiality.