Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga has told of how a pre-dawn ambush on Monday – in which she and her bodyguards were robbed after stopping on the N3 near Heidelberg – had left her terrified that she would be shot at any moment.
Police confirmed that Chikunga and her protectors had stopped to change a tyre, punctured after objects were seemingly placed on the road.
The police are investigating a case of armed robbery.
Speaking virtually at the Transport Portfolio Committee meeting in Parliament on Tuesday, Chikunga said she was driving with her brother and bodyguards when they noticed that one of the tyres had a puncture.
“The wheel was severely damaged. Bodyguards had to change the tyre. Just as they were putting bags and [the] damaged tyre [in the car, the robbery happened],” she said.
Chikunga added that, while in the car, she heard the commotion outside and tried to make a call.
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However, one of the three robbers approached the car, opened the door, and pointed a gun at her head.
According to Chikunga, they moved her out of the car and told her to sit down before demanding money.
“They took R200 in my possession, laptops and my brother’s bag from the vehicle,” she said.
“They tried to take my ring. I said it was the only thing I value between me and my husband.”
Chikunga said she had been left “devastated and traumatised”.
She said the robbers were well dressed, in their 20s or 30s, and spoke Zulu fluently.
“What they didn’t take was an iPad, which they left in one of the bags that we used. God has mercy on us.”
A police source with knowledge of the incident, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the atack had happened in the early hours of the morning.
“Her protectors attended to the punctured tyre when they were attacked. They claimed an armed gang came from the bush near where they had stopped,” the source said.
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“I don’t think the robbers knew that the men were bodyguards and police officers, and they were protecting a national minister. I am grateful that lives were spared.”
National police spokesperson, Brigadier Athlenda Mathe, confirmed that the protectors were receiving counselling.
“A case of armed robbery is under investigation. Members involved are receiving necessary support and counselling from the SAPS Employee Health and Wellness unit,” Mathe said.
Mathe added that the two bodyguards had been relieved of their duties.
“The minister has been provided with other resources until the current pair is fit and proper to return to their posts. Steps are under way to determine what transpired as far as VIP protection protocols are concerned. An officer has since been appointed to conduct a determination investigation,” she said.
Transport department spokesperson Collen Msibi said Chikunga had been en route to Pretoria when the attack occurred.
“Chikunga and her protection team emerged from this incident unharmed and safe. She remains committed to fulfilling her government responsibilities,” he added.
“Chikunga is deeply grateful for the overwhelming support she has received from her fellow government colleagues and the people of South Africa.” News24