South African crime: Robbers hold a gun to the head of Transport Minister Sindisio Chikunga
South Africa’s transport minister has described how she was robbed at gunpoint after her car stopped on a highway to change its blown tyre.
Sindisio Chikunga told a parliamentary committee that one of the masked attackers pointed a gun at her head during the ordeal early Monday.
She added that they stole some of her laptops, phone and weapons from her bodyguards.
South Africa has long faced high levels of crime, including car hijacking, kidnapping and robbery.
But it is unusual for a government minister traveling with armed bodyguards to be robbed in his car.
“I am in a good place, but the whole experience was very painful,” Chikunga told MPs.
She said that at 03:30 local time on Monday, her bodyguards – or “protectors” – got out of the car, which was traveling on a main road south of Johannesburg, to replace a broken tire.
That’s when the robbers approached, forced the bodyguards to the ground and then opened the car door.
“They pointed a gun at my head and ordered me to get out,” Chikunga said.
They demanded money, but she explained that she did not have any cash. They then searched the car and took what they could find.
The thieves still threatened her with their weapons, and also tried to seize the minister’s ring, but she told them: “This was the only thing that was between me and my late husband, and I valued it very much.”
At some point, the priest began to pray but was asked to remain silent.
“We are fine, we are healthy, we are alive,” Chikunga told parliamentarians as she concluded her account of what happened. “It was a terrible experience… but God have mercy on us.”
Police confirmed the robbery and “a manhunt has since been launched following this unprecedented incident,” police spokesman Brigadier General Athlinda Mathie was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.
In reference to a common method used by criminals, the Ministry of Transport said her car’s tires were “pierced with nails”. [placed on the road]And stopping the car to enable criminals to steal valuables from its passengers.”
The two bodyguards were placed on leave until… [they are] fit and proper to return to their positions.” News24 quoted Brigadier Mathy as saying.
She added: “Steps are being taken to determine what happened regarding VIP protection protocols.”
In the latest annual survey Nearly 1.3 million people said they were victims of property crimes, representing about 3% of the population.
The proliferation of small arms is also a major problem in South Africa. Firearms were used in more than 66,000 recorded home burglaries.