South Africa’s transport minister, Sindisiwe Chikunga, has described how she was robbed at gunpoint after her vehicle stopped on a highway to change a burst tyre.
Chikunga told a parliamentary committee that one of the masked attackers pointed a gun at her head during the ordeal in the early hours of Monday, November 6, 2923.
The minister disclosed that the assailants stole some laptops, a phone, and her bodyguards’ weapons.
“I’m in one piece, but the whole experience was very traumatising,” Chikunga added.
She stated that at 03:30 local time on Monday, her bodyguards – or “protectors” – had got out of the car, which had been travelling on a main road south of Johannesburg, to replace a burst tyre.
She said that was when the robbers approached, forcing the bodyguards onto the floor and then opening the car door.
They “pointed a gun at my head and ordered me to come out,” Chikunga said.
The minister disclosed that the robbers demanded money, but she explained that she did not have any cash on her.
“They then searched through the vehicle taking what they could find,” she added.
Still threatening her with their guns, the minister said the robbers also tried to take her ring but she told them: “This was the only thing that I have between my late husband and myself, I value it so much.”
Chikunga said at one point, she started praying but was told to keep quiet.
“We are fine, we are healthy, we are alive. It was a horrible experience… but God had mercy on us,” Chikunga told parliamentarians as she wrapped up her account of what happened.
The police have confirmed that the robbery took place and “a manhunt has since been launched following this unprecedented incident”, AFP quoted police spokesperson, Brig Athlenda Mathe, as saying.
Referring to a common method that criminals use, the ministry of transport said that the tyres of the car “were punctured by spikes (placed on the road), bringing the car to a stop enabling the criminals to rob the occupants of valuables”.
South Africa has long faced high crime levels, including car-hijackings, kidnappings, and smash-and-grabs.
But it is very unusual for a government minister travelling with armed bodyguards to be robbed in their vehicle.
According to BBC, the proliferation of small arms is also a big issue in South Africa. Guns were used in more than 66,000 of the recorded home robberies.