NTOMBI NKOSI AND SIYABONGA SITHOLE
Police Minister Bheki Cele has not ruled out the possibility of an inside job after Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga and her VIP protectors were robbed of firearms and cellphones while changing a tyre that had punctured.
The incident happened on the N3 between Vosloorus and Heidelberg on Monday morning.
It is reported that Chikunga, in the company of her brother and VIP protectors, was travelling from Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal.
Cele said the criminals have become so brazen that not even politicians and ministers have become immune to their attacks.
“When the car was spiked, the minister drove for about 4km to change their tyres. As they were finishing, they were approached by four guys who were armed and ordered everyone to sleep on their stomachs. We are thankful that nobody lost their lives as they were violent and took some money. My problem is that it looks like there was some form of information that they had. This shows that we are all victims of crime in this country,” Cele said.
Police have confirmed they are investigating a case of armed robbery.
Transport Department spokesperson Collen Msibi confirmed the incident..
“The tyres of the minister’s car were punctured by spikes, bringing the car to a stop, enabling the criminals to rob the occupants of valuables. This incident took place in the early hours of Monday morning when the minister was en route to Pretoria, on the N3 between Vosloorus and Heidelberg,” said Msibi.
Both the minister and her SAPS protection team emerged unharmed and safe, he said.
“Chikunga remains committed to fulfilling her government responsibilities and is deeply grateful for the overwhelming support she has received from her fellow government colleagues and the people of South Africa.”
SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe confirmed personal belongings and two SAPS service pistols were stolen during the incident.
“The members involved are receiving the necessary support and counselling. A manhunt has since been launched following this unprecedented incident and to bring to book those responsible for this attack. The minister has, in the meantime, been provided with alternative resources,” said Mathe.
She added: “The SAPS is committed to executing its mandate of protecting the executive of the country and community at large. VIP protection is one of the key priority areas for the SAPS and has been undertaken with excellence over the years. We endeavour to continue to serve and protect while observing all aspects of our VIP protection protocols.”
Chikunga revealed that she was travelling with her brother in a state’s car vehicle.
Speaking at the transport portfolio committee yesterday, Chikunga described the experience as “very traumatising” and “devastating”.
“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.
“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.
“It was devastating. It was traumatising,” she said. “I am okay, but I am alive. Cellphone was stolen. Laptops were stolen.”
Msibi was asked whether or not the minister had registered her brother as an official companion, at the time of print he had not responded.
Political analyst, Professor Sipho Seepe, said: “Transporting family members does not fall within the definition of official duty. Spouses are accommodated through a different arrangement. There is a sense that ministers will take advantage of the fact that they are not policed. Issues arise when there is an accident or criminal activity.” | Additional reporting by Mayibongwe Maqhina and Kuben Chetty