A VIP protection unit member was not attending to any emergency when he allegedly shot out the tyres of a motorists he was overtaking, a packed Camperdown Magistrate’s Court heard on Wednesday.
However, he was in a hurry to pick up KwaZulu-Natal social development MEC Meshack Radebe, who he was tasked with protecting. “According to the driver (of the Golf) they were supposed to report to Radebe, but then they got a call saying that they must be there (earlier) at his house in Waterfall (near Durban) at 8.30,” investigating officer Inspector Jerome Mngadi told the court.
“They were rushing because they were late. There was no emergency,” he testified.
Constable Hlanganani Nxumalo, 28, of the Alexandra Road police barracks in Pietermaritzburg, allegedly shot the tyre of a Mazda on the N3 near Camperdown on Saturday morning.
The driver of the car lost control, veered into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with a bakkie. There were six people in each car. Eight of them were injured.
Questioned by Magistrate Thys Taaljaard, Mngadi conceded that, had it not been for eyewitnesses noting the registration of the Golf, police would not have known to whom it belonged.
He said witnesses reported that the Golf had its blue lights flashing and the driver was flashing its headlights to urge other motorists to get out of the fast lane.
Mngadi said police records showed “it (the Golf) belonged to the department of social development and that was driven by police who are bodyguards of social development MEC Meshack Radebe”.
According to Mngadi, he had been told that “the Golf proceeded as if nothing had happened” after the accident.
Mngadi could not confirm claims that the driver of the Golf – identified in court as a Const Ndlela – or the passenger stopped further along the N3 and told Road Traffic Inspectorate officers of the incident.
He said Radebe arrived at the Camperdown police station with Nxumalo, who was then handed over to the police. Mngadi said he was still waiting for a statement from a member of the police’s collision unit, who witnessed the accident.
Nxumalo faces eight counts of attempted murder and one of malicious damage to property.
Opposing bail, state prosecutor Rakesh Keshurpersad said the onus was on Nxumalo to show why it would be in the interests of justice for him to be released. He said he had not shown sufficient reasons for his release and could face up to 40 years imprisonment if convicted. Earlier, the Democratic Alliance called for the prosecution of the driver of the car, describing him as Nxumalo’s “accomplice”.
Radley Keys, the party’s provincial spokesman for transport, said Ndlela should face the same charges, because he was an “accessory to the fact”.
“He and the VIP member must have been in cahoots as the driver would have had to slow down to allow the VIP member to fire the shots at the vehicle driven on the N3 near Pietermaritzburg.” He said the incident was indicative of the “arrogant attitude” displayed by the provincial MECs and their VIP staff. “The DA demands an explanation as to why the VIP driver has not been charged with attempted murder as well the other charges his accomplice is facing.”
In response, police spokesman Superintendent Henry Budhram said police were busy with investigations at this stage. “The possibility that the driver may be charged cannot be ruled out at this time,” he said.