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