File photo: Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Johannesburg - At least four heavily armed criminals allegedly tried to enter a boutique hotel in Houghton, Joburg, where ANC presidential contender Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma stayed.

It is that incident at number 10 2nd Avenue, Houghton Estate, 12 days ago that the South African Police Service thinks was a threat on her life and has used to justify providing the former AU Commission chairperson with VIP protection from the presidential unit, a top government official said on Saturday.

“Nkosazana was threatened last week (Wednesday, April 5) by four heavily armed men with automatic rifles at a house in Houghton,” said the highly placed source.

“They were trying to get to (Dlamini Zuma) inside. The security at the gate ran for cover and alerted people inside.”

He added that the gang had also tried to attack former ANC MP and businessman Thaba Mufamadi, who had arrived at the hotel.

Mufamadi confirmed the alleged incident and said he was just about to enter the property when he spotted about four men in a car following him. He had gone to the hotel for a meeting with Dlamini Zuma.

“Before the driver drove in, we were surrounded by about four guys. They were wearing balaclavas. I am told they were following us. The driver reacted swiftly and drove into the property. Inside were two police officers and security guards for that area,” Mufamadi said on Saturday.

“I don’t know if it was a hijacking or not. There was a life-threatening incident. It’s a sensitive issue. There was an attempt and it was in the vicinity of the guest house. I didn’t know if the people knew if it was her (Dlamini Zuma) in the car or not.”

He said he was lucky as the gate had been open because a man had just come out of the property. He said a case was opened at the Norwood police station.

But police spokesperson Lieutenant Kay Makhubela told The Sunday Independent he had no idea at all about the alleged incident, adding that the police didn’t have a case number.

A security guard manning the gate at the property said Dlamini Zuma was “a frequent visitor”, but he knew nothing of the incident.

“Another guy came here asking questions about whether there were some gunshots fired around this vicinity. There is nothing like that,” he said.

A receptionist at the hotel said they were not aware of the alleged incident.

“I don’t think that there was an attack. If there was, I would have known,” he said.

Dlamini Zuma caused a storm on Friday when she was seen flanked by VIP bodyguards in Zamdela township in Sasolburg, Free State, for an ANC event.

This was despite the fact she is neither a cabinet minister nor an MP, and in spite of the government confirming earlier that taxpayers would no longer foot the bill for her protection service since she was no longer the AU chairperson.

When asked by reporters about her security detail, she avoided the questions, leaving Free State premier and ANC provincial chairperson Ace Magashule to respond. “I can’t respond to some of the questions you are posing to me because I can’t respond,” Magashule said.

The SAPS said she was being provided with the VIP protection because of a “threat and security assessment”.

The SAPS said Dlamini Zuma’s VIP protection from the presidential protection unit (PPU) was done in accordance with their mandate and prescript.

“In terms of the PPU’s mandate, protection is provided to the president and deputy president of the Republic of South Africa, former presidents, foreign heads of state and their spouses,” the SAPS said in a statement,

The Sunday Times recently reported that the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) was paying for the ANC presidential hopeful’s blue-light convoy and security detail as a “courtesy” she had to use while doing party work since her return to the country on March 15. The services were extended to her only until the end of March.

The SAPS said on Friday that Dlamini Zuma “is afforded courtesies given by Dirco with the status of president and, while serving in that capacity, Dr Dlamini Zuma was provided protection according to this prescript”.

According to the SAPS, the additional protection being provided to Dlamini Zuma was “informed by the outcome of a security assessment conducted and ongoing investigations in relation to threats directed at her person”.

The SAPS would not divulge any further details, citing “security reasons”. “That in itself would constitute a breach of security,” the statement said.

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula would not comment on why Dlamini Zuma was accorded the VIP security guards at taxpayers’ expense, referring The Sunday Independent to the SAPS statement.

“The SAPS statement is correct. That’s my comment,” he said.

A senior police official told The Sunday Independent that the issue of security around Dlamini Zuma was likely to be discussed on May 3 in Parliament when the budget of the police’s Protection Security Service is discussed. Parliament has invited the two police unions, Popcru and Sapu, for their comments on the budget.

“Our state security agency has dismally failed to disclose its threat analysis on Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, always hiding behind the notion of secret information.

“So at the May 3 meeting, the PSS (Presidential Security Service) is expected to give all the information on how much was spent on the security of President Jacob Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

“All the finer details will be given at that meeting because the police authorities want the unions to support their budget,” the police official said.

Political parties have reacted angrily to Dlamini Zuma being accorded the VIP protection service.

Cope said it would be laying criminal charges against Mbalula today "for contravening the presidential protection mandate" at the Garsfontein police station in Tshwane.

"This is a blatant abuse of the state resources and taxpayers' money," said spokesperson Dennis Bloem.

Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota rejected the police’s explanations, saying: “Where is the threat against Dlamini Zuma’s life coming from?"

Lekota said they had heard about threats levelled against those who had spoken out against Zuma, including SACP second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu.

“But we have not heard any report saying they have been given protection by the PPU,” he said.

Zak Mbhele, the DA’s shadow police minister, said he would submit parliamentary questions to get details on “the extension of Zuma’s VIP protection beyond her term as AU chairperson”.

ANC Women’s League national spokesperson Thoko Xasa said they welcomed the PPU’s protection of Dlamini Zuma.

Sunday Independent