Unidentified assailants robbed South African Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga as she was travelling with her bodyguards along one of the country’s main highways.
“The tires of the minister’s car were punctured by spikes, bringing the car to a stop, enabling the criminals to rob the occupants of valuables,” Transport Ministry spokesman Collen Msibi said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This incident took place in the early hours of Monday morning when the minister was en route to Pretoria.”
The minister and her bodyguards were unharmed and safe, he said.
South African police said in a separate statement that the robbers took personal belongings and her two security guards’ service pistols in the attack, which occurred on the N3 highway southeast of Johannesburg.
“A manhunt has since been launched following this unprecedented incident and to bring to book those responsible for this attack,” police spokeswoman Athlenda Mathe said.
South Africa has one of the world’s highest crime rates, a status that’s underpinned by widespread inequality and high unemployment. There were 280,000 hijacking incidents in the country in the 12 months through March, according to Statistics South Africa.
High VIP protection costs
The robbery of one of South Africa’s ministers comes despite the country spending exorbitant amounts on VIP protection in the country.
For the 2023/24 financial year, the SAPS has budgeted R3.67 billion for protection and security services – of this, R1.97 billion is specifically budgeted for VIP protection.
This is projected to increase to R2.2 billion river the next three years.
This is only slightly less than the R2.2 billion budgeted for special investigations by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (aka, The Hawks), to combat organised crime syndicates, serious and violent crime, commercial crime and corruption.
To put the imbalance into perspective, taxpayers pay as much to keep 200 government VIPs safe as they do for the investigation of all serious crimes in the country.
Meanwhile, organised crime, violent crime and corruption continue unabated in the country – and VIP security agents grab headlines for stepping outside the law.