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‘Traumatising, devastating and bad’ — transport minister describes N3 robbery to Parliament

‘Traumatising, devastating and bad’ — transport minister describes N3 robbery to Parliament
Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga during a visit to the Free State on 5 June 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Volksblad/Mlungisi Louw)

Just hours after surviving an armed robbery on the N3 near Heidelberg, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga described the experience to her colleagues in Parliament on Monday.

Speaking during the portfolio committee on Transport, Chikunga said at about 4am, the vehicle they were travelling in had a puncture, which, according to the department, was caused by spikes purposefully set across the road. Chikunga’s driver attempted to drive on for some distance but ultimately had to pull over to change the tyre or risk damaging the rim further.

Chikunga said two of the bodyguards had just changed the tyre when she and her brother, with whom she was also travelling, heard a commotion. 

“When I looked out, there were people with guns pointing at the protectors. They (protectors) couldn’t have done anything because they came up behind them.” 

She said the bodyguards were ordered to lie down. The robbers, who she described as well-dressed young men who spoke IsiZulu fluently, made their way to the car when she attempted to call for help. 

“They demanded money. I said I do not carry money with me, I only have R200 in my bag.” 

He tried to take my ring… and when he failed to take it, he pointed a firearm at me.

Chikunga said she would be able to recognise one of the robbers even though they had balaclavas on “as she had time to stare at him”. 

“I could not carry on staring as I thought he would shoot me if he realised I could recognise him. 

“It was traumatising, devastating and bad,” said Chikunga. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Transport minister and her VIP protection unit robbed on N3

“They did not touch me except when they were about to leave where one saw my ring… He tried to take my ring but I said it was the only thing of value I had from my husband and when he failed to take it, he pointed a firearm at me. At that time, I was scared that they could actually shoot, really shoot because they were about to leave. They had nothing to lose, they [were] going to shoot and kill then run away.” 

Chikunga said something that raised her eyebrows about the robbery was that one of the robbers specifically asked who was her protector. She said members of Parliament, police and government employees use the word protectors, ordinary citizens use the word bodyguard. 

“When they were leaving one of them said ‘There are police members here and I hate the police. I feel like shooting the police.’ I don’t know whether that was trying to make us think that it’s ordinary criminals or what.” 

National police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said personal belongings and two SAPS service pistols were stolen during the incident. 

“Members involved are receiving 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,” she said. 

Mathe denied reports that the minister’s security was compromised and that she used a private hired vehicle instead of a state vehicle. 

“Those allegations are unfounded and baseless as the vehicle involved is a state vehicle.” 

From the information provided by the minister and police, it seems the minister was travelling in one vehicle with her brother and protectors. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele, reacting to the robbery while addressing the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union conference in Durban on Tuesday 7 November, said criminals are so brazen that they have declared war on South Africans. 

“Something big nearly happened when they spiked the car of Minister Sindi Chikunga and they ordered everybody in the car, including Minister Chikunga, lala phansi nge sisu [lie on your stomach]. They are taking everybody on, these criminals. We nearly lost a minister that would have been shot and killed,” said Cele. DM

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  • Con Tester says:

    The whole of the ANC’s governance is traumatising, devastating, and bad!

    Jokes about useless VIP Protection Unit officers aside, this sort of thing befalls many SAns every day but because it’s a jumped-up cadre in cabinet, it’s suddenly big news? Something about this entire story is very fishy indeed. Dig deeper, DM!

  • Richard Baker says:

    Why is DM giving this air-time?!
    A typical encounter for the average motorist often with far more serious outcomes. Actually happy that those who are cocooned in cotton wool at taxpayer’s expense get to have this real-life experience! Will it make a difference-not a chance!

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    “following this unprecedented incident”

    What? Unprecedented? Does our minister live in the same country as I do? South Africa? The country where more than 70 people are murdered every day? Ie. Like dead, deceased, gone for good. That South africa.

    Well?

  • Manfred Hasewinkel says:

    ‘We nearly lost a minister that would have been shot and killed,” said Cele’. I can only laugh, sadly. Can’t we find an old Pro Patria medal for the woman to soothe her trauma?

  • Derek Jones says:

    They live in cuckoo land the ANC.

  • Erma Gardner says:

    The incompetence of the bodyguards just makes me laugh. It’s high time these ANC cronies start feeling what ordinary South Africans have to endure daily.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    (Cue sad violin music.) Ooh cry me a river. I am delighted hat she and her fellow vile villains finally get a taste of what it’s like for the rest of South Africans on a day to day basis. Her ring? How about when my wife was hijacked by four cowards who threatened to cut off her finger if she didn’t take it off? A ring, I might add, that I sold my car to buy, and which she wore for 32 years before these disgusting people took it away. The minister and her fellow gangsters deserve nothing less, and her “trauma” leaves me cold.

  • Willem Boshoff says:

    Reaping the fruit of your party’s mismanagement of this country. It’s on your watch that we’re degenerating into a lawless, dysfunctional state. We feel no sympathy for your ordeal.

  • William Kelly says:

    Nearly lost a minister eh Cele? We have lost many citizens under your watch but some muppets are more equal than the rest of the citizenry. No-one cares what you say any more – you have made it clear that we are on our own and you, well you have all our tax money to protect you and yours.
    We see you.

  • mark29 mark29 says:

    The parasite class having their hard done by lives tested. Shame.

  • John P says:

    It seems the blue light bullies, sorry, “Protectors”, despite their huge budget allocation are only capable of beating up innocent motorists at the side of the road.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    Minister, I have no sympathy. This is what happens to South Africans every day and is all caused by your personal and your party’s incompetence.

  • Johan Buys says:

    A high end BMW has run-flat tyres that will keep vehicle going at I think 80 km/h without damaging the rims?

    Our family policy is : if get a flat in a dicey area or at night, keep driving to a safe spot even if the rim is FUBAR afterward. Somebody tries to stop you from the front, drive over them if they don’t get out the way and still don’t stop.

  • Sean Hammon says:

    Do you know what this means? Another hundred and eleventeen billion in undeserving bloated VIP protection… taken out of the general public’s SAPS budget. I feel rocks for her. Rocks!

  • Peer Iuel says:

    So pleased this happened to her; it’s good for the muppet ANC leaders to experience what goes on in the real world!

  • virginia crawford says:

    4am? Coming back from a party? Devastated and traumatised but happy with 71 murders a day, plus the rapes, robberies and assaults that are the daily lot of hundereds of people every day! So much attention from DM? Dark comedy to cheer us up? Lots of international coverage though! Very encouraging for investors and tourists.

  • Bob Kuhn says:

    ….just s atypical day for the average South Africa, ousie…..suck it up!

  • Trenton Carr says:

    Got to justify the increase in spending for these apparently useless trophy “protectors” who now need counseling for not doing their jobs. Fishy AF.

  • Glyn M says:

    “We nearly lost a minister that would have been shot and killed,” said Cele.” Really? We ordinary South Africans lose our parents, our siblings, our children, our friends every single day by crime infiltrating our homes and even our churches. But when one of their pampered overprotected, often corrupt, nearly always useless Ministers get a taste of what we face every single day, it appears in the news and the indignation of fellow ministers is suddenly heard- not only on the roads, but in the sanctity of our homes. More people are murdered in SA than are killed in war-torn Croatia!

  • vimal naidoo says:

    This is a reality of every South African using the roads today .
    Why does a minister get special mention and gets to tell her story to parliament ?
    I had to suck it up and thank the good lord I was alive after some deviant threw a rock at my car whilst driving on the N2 .
    There is nothing honorable about majority of people sitting in parliament so I feel no sympathy for her !

  • nima egumbo says:

    That is how SA has come to be known: a failed state where a human life is worth nothing due to law of the jungle where criminal gangs reign supreme. KZN leads the pack!

  • Louise Wilkins says:

    Now you know what we feel on a daily basis, minister. It’s good to feel the medicine you dole out to the public.

  • Les Thorpe says:

    Nothing unusual here. Why does DM report this incident. These incidents happen multiple times every day in S.A. and nothing is done about it. As far as I’m concerned, this is just one lot of armed criminals mugging another lot of (armed) criminals.

    The minister can thank her lucky stars that she was not assaulted by members of the VIP Thug Unit who appear to take pride in “highway violence” on members of the public.

    Our freeways are unsafe. The international community need be apprised of the fact that S.A. is NOT a safe destination for tourists.

  • Leslie van Minnen says:

    Oh shame. You were held up at gunpoint. Obviously your guards were not very proficient. This is what 10’s of thousand’s of ordinary South Africans are exposed to every year under the pathetic leadership of the ANC and its spineless leader. Now you know what its like. The full might of the SAPS will be used to find these robbers while less than 10% of murders in this country are solved and even less prosecuted.
    This is the ANC legacy why are you crying about this.

  • Zwelibanzi Msiza says:

    Meetings should be adjourned timeously for members to travell during the day,unlike in the wee hours of the night

  • Billy Gildy says:

    I am sure the bodyguards are cadre deployees.

  • Gordon Holtmann says:

    I have the greatest sympathy for minister Chikunga – it’s not a pleasant experience to have a gun pointed at your head and your goods stolen. I know – its happened to me. I wonder what percentage of people in South Africa it hasn’t happened to? The one person who seems entirely ignorant of it going on and having gone on for years is the police minister – who notes with surprise that – ‘criminals are so brazen that they have declared war on South Africans’. Is he a reporter or a police minister? He seriously needs to catch up, retire and go and live somewhere safe under his hat!

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    she says I don’t carry money with me I only have R200 in my bag. We’ll that’s more than half a poor person’s monthly grant. What were the body guards thinking. .. setting up no watch while changing a Spiked wheel .They should be investigated. We’re they in on the charade?

  • Richard Brown says:

    So far, there has been no explanation for her (and her brother) being on the road at 4am

  • Neerajh Ghazi says:

    How is this even newsworthy ?
    It happens to our fellow citizens daily.
    Why would you give this any extended airtime DM?

    As for the “protectors”….not appreciating that a threat could possibly come from the rear after driving over spikes!
    My late father was fond of saying “Stupidity must be rewarded”

    Sadly there are now TWO more illegal firearms out there.
    Hope the “Protectors” are held accountable but sincerely doubt they would be!

  • Fuad XXX says:

    Was this a ruse to increase the criminal oops, I mean the vip protectors’ budget & is she not part of the cANCer government. Seems the vip protectors are only good at assaulting SA citizens.

  • Betsy Kuhn says:

    Maybe if it happens to the ANC comrades more often, they will wake up and do something about the crime situation in SA

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Cosplay minister and two armed muppety goons get robbed. Hands up if feel even the beginnings a twinge of sympathy. If saps wasn’t so utterly useless this would be a slam dunk for an inside job.

  • Jack Russell says:

    And the likely result?
    Beefed up security for the boss cadres, all at the expense of the taxpayer?

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    When it happened to me, the police didn’t even bother to investigate. I had to call them from the hospital, as the criminals had broken one of my fingers, to make them open a case; I needed it for the insurance. I never heard from the police anymore, even if I had told them who might have been involved in tracking me down.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      SAPS charge office serve mainly as places to get case numbers for insurance claims and as retail outlets for police issue firearms. If they allowed us to make up the numbers ourselves for a small fee and gave the army exclusive rights to selling state owned firearms they could shut down all the police stations save a fortune.

  • Rob Wilson says:

    Are these the same protectors who drive at high speed traumatising motorists everyday on our roads? Maybe it was a revenge attack.

  • Khotso Lephallo says:

    At least you have felt what normal South Africans go through on a daily basis. I just dont understand how this occurred when you travel with VIP protection or they only specialize in driving us off the roads with their lights.

    • Andre Niemann says:

      What a load of BS……
      VIP Protectors are trained to form a ring of defence around the stricken vehicle, to allow maintenance to be conducted.
      Unless the VIP protectors were lounging and sleeping in their expensive German Luxury Vehicles at 04:00 in the morning?
      Furthermore, Ministers and MP’s are always late for Meetings, I find it hard to believe this Minister was travelling at that time of the morning….and why was her BROTHER with her in an Official Vehicle???

    • Andre Niemann says:

      Spot on!

  • Winston Bigsby says:

    So fishy it stinks to high heaven. And reads like a comedy sketch: At about 4 AM??:
    “caused by spikes purposefully set across the road.” not accidentally set across the road! This would have alerted the “protectors” who should be covering the driver changing the run flat tyre? Only one tyre?
    Protectors now a new term like learners and educators?
    “I said I do not carry money with me, I only have R200 in my bag. Not money then? Or real money?
    she would be able to recognise one of the robbers even though they had balaclavas on as she had time to stare at him”. A minister with X-ray vision to see thru balaclavas! Brilliant!
    Prat in the hat: “We nearly lost a minister that would have been shot and killed” if it wasn’t for what?
    The Protectahs that were disarmed rather than protecting?
    Shem, they are receiving counselling – they’ll probably get a promosheen. For the worst body guards of the year? Wait! That will have to go the crew that beat up the public near Fourways. Jeez, what a shower of s**t.. the incompetence is staggering. And the vocab.

  • Padman Nair says:

    Install AI Camera along the roadsides across the country to catch the criminals and charge them like hell! AI Cameras will follow them for ever. They will fail to escape from the eyes of the camera and their criminal record will be difficult to be eraced!

    • Johann Olivier says:

      Kidding, right? They’d install them in some huge grift then, in no time, they would cease to work or be stolen. You know, like SAA, Transnet, the PO … etc … etc …

  • Susan Buekes says:

    I enjoyed all the reader comments in response to the Transport Minister’s experience. Could they be emailed to her and to Minister Cele?

  • Matthew Quinton says:

    …”Police Minister Bheki Cele, reacting to the robbery while addressing the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union conference in Durban on Tuesday 7 November, said criminals are so brazen that they have declared war on South Africans. “…

    True, however the best example of this statement is the ANC itself. The pratt in the hat and all the piggies are the biggest bunch of criminals in SA.

  • Johann Olivier says:

    From the US State Department:
    South Africa Travel Advisory: Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution, November 7, 2023
    Travel

    STEP Notifications Unsubscribe
    Tue, Nov 7, 2:14 PM (3 days ago)
    to ACS_SOUTH_AFRICA

    Updated to reflect safety consideration when using GPS navigation.
    Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to crime and civil unrest.

    Country Summary:Violent crime, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and “smash-and-grab” attacks on vehicles, is common. There is a higher risk of violent crime in the central business districts of major cities after dark.

    Using GPS navigation can lead to unsafe routes. GPS navigation may suggest shortcuts through townships as the quickest preferred route but can lead to increased risks of crime.

    Demonstrations, protests, and strikes occur frequently. These can develop quickly without prior notification, often interrupting traffic, transportation, and other services; such events have the potential to turn violent.

    Please see our Alerts for up-to-date information.

    Read the country information page for additional information on travel to South Africa.

    If you decide to travel to South Africa:

    Investigate Research your route in advance, stay on major highways, avoid shortcuts through townships, and avoid reliance on GPS navigation apps. When driving on city roads, the shortest and fastest route may not be the safest.
    For example: The safest approach to return a rental car to Cape Town International Airport is to take the N2 highway and follow signs to Airport Approach Rd (exit 16). Alternatively, request the rental car company to collect your vehicle and subsequently arrange an airport transfer from established taxi companies or established ridesharing services to reach the airport.

    Avoid walking alone, especially after dark.
    Avoid visiting informal settlement areas unless you are with someone familiar with the area.
    Do not display cash or valuables.
    Drive with doors locked and windows closed.
    Always carry a copy of your U.S. passport and visa (if applicable). Keep original documents in a secure location.

    Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program(STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
    Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
    Review the Country Security Report for South Africa.
    Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
    Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel.

    Just great for tourism!

  • Awareness Publishing Mike says:

    Don’t you agree with me? Aren’t you tired of having to listen over and over again to the “Audio sponsored by Stand Up Business podcast”, before having any of these articles read aloud to you? What’s more, listening on iPhone, in most cases I find I am forced to listen to the 10 seconds ad TWICE before being able to play the article. So, it’s “press play, listen to the 10 seconds repeating humour of the one and laughter of the other, then press play again, and listed to it all over again”. And one is forced to listen hundreds of times to this 10 seconds annoying advertisement, because Daily Maverick has not provided any “skip” or “move on” facility. After having been forced to listen to the two’s laughter too many times, I have completely lost the appetite of ever listening to Mark Barnes or Business Maverick editor Tim Cohen ever again. And sorry for bringing it up here, but I have written to Daily Maverick many times about it, but they have done nothing about it. Don’t you agree?

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