Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga on Tuesday recounted the traumatic robbery when she, her brother and her bodyguards were on the N3 between Vosloorus and Heidelberg and a gun was pointed at her head.
Police confirmed they were investigating the circumstances leading to the robbery where personal belongings and two SA Police Services’ service pistols were stolen.
Speaking at the transport portfolio committee on Tuesday, Chikunga described the experience as “very traumatising” and “devastating”.
The robbery took place at around 3.30am when the vehicle she was in had a puncture.
“We drove for quite a longer distance but ultimately we had to stop because the (tyre) was getting damaged to the extent the rim was on the road,” she said.
Chikunga said the bodyguards were robbed after changing the damaged tyre and putting it back in the vehicle.
“I was sitting in the car, and then I could hear there was something happening. When I looked out, indeed, there were people with guns pointing at the protectors.”
She also said the bodyguards were ordered to lie down and the robbers came to the door of the vehicle.
“At the time I realised something was happening, I tried to take my phone and try to phone. Just before I could do anything they opened the door and pointed the gun at my head and ordered me out,” she said.
Chikunga said the well-dressed men in their late 20s or early 30s, wearing balaclavas, asked for money.
“Among the things they said, which I think is worth taking note of, was ‘we know that you have money, give us the money’. I said I don’t carry money with me. I only have R200 in my bag,” she said. The men opened her bag and found the cash and a cellphone on the seat.
“When I got out of the car, I looked at the person. He had a balaclava on but I looked at this person. I did not want to continue doing that because I thought maybe he is going to shoot me if he realises I can recognise him.”
She recalled one of the men asking who among the bodyguards was her “protector” and then searched the vehicle.
“They found something that these are police and searched them and took their firearms. They did not search my brother.” Chikunga also said one of men tried to take her wedding ring.
“He tried to take my ring but I said, ‘No this is the only thing I have.
“When he failed to take the ring he pointed the firearm and that time I was scared they could actually really shoot. They had nothing to lose.
“I said this is the only thing I have between my late husband and myself. I said I value it so much. He said: ‘Okay Mamzo’ and off they left.”
She added that one of the men stated that he “hated the police” and felt like killing the members before walking away without looking at them.
“It was devastating. It was traumatising,” she said. “I am okay, but I am alive. Cellphone was stolen. Laptops were stolen.”
She also told of the men taking the bag of her brother only to drop it when she pleaded to just take a laptop since the bag contained work documents.
The bag contained an iPad, which they used to call for help afterwards.
Speaking at the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) 10th Congress in Durban on Tuesday, Police Minister Bheki Cele said it appeared Chikunga car’s tyre was spiked.
He said he had deduced, that the robbers had received information either through social media or other means, on the route she would be taking as it appeared that she had been specifically targeted.
“They were asking her certain questions.”
• Additional reporting Kuben Chetty