South Africa‘s minister of transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga narrates a distressing encounter in which she was robbed at gunpoint when her vehicle stalled on a highway during a tire change.
Sindisiwe Chikunga recounted before a parliamentary committee that, in the early hours of Monday, she had a gun pointed at her head by one of the attackers wearing masks.
She recounted that the burglars took laptops, a phone, and the firearms carried by her protection team.
The nation of South Africa has been dealing with persistent crime issues, including car hijackings, kidnappings, and quick smash-and-grab thefts.
It is highly atypical for a government minister, who is accompanied by armed bodyguards, to experience a robbery while in their vehicle.
‘I’m in one piece, but the whole experience was very traumatising,’ Ms Chikunga told MPs.
She described how, at 03:30 local time on Monday, her bodyguards, often referred to as “protectors,” stepped out of the car, which was traveling along a major road south of Johannesburg, to change a punctured tire.
At that point, the thieves approached, ordering the bodyguards to get down on the ground and then forcibly opening the car door.
Ms. Chikunga related that ‘they brandished a gun at her, insisting that she step out of the car,’
Still threatening her with their guns, the robbers also tried to take the minister’s ring but she told them: “This was the only thing that I have between my late husband and myself, I value it so much.”
Their demand for money was met with her disclosure that she had no cash in her possession. In response, they proceeded to search the vehicle, taking whatever they came across.
‘We are fine, we are healthy, we are alive. It was a horrible experience… but God had mercy on us,’ Ms Chikunga told parliamentarians as she wrapped up her account of what happened.
Citing a typical tactic employed by criminals, the Ministry of Transport indicated that the car’s tires had been punctured by road spikes, forcing the vehicle to halt and allowing the criminals to rob the occupants of their possessions.
The two bodyguards have been placed on leave ‘until [they are] fit and proper to return to their posts’, Brig Mathe is quoted by News24 as saying.
‘Steps are under way to determine what transpired as far as VIP protection protocols are concerned,’ she added.