Blue-light cops have 'a history of terrorising road users'

VIP protection-unit members have a history of terrorising KwaZulu-Natal motorists and are not automatically entitled to bail, magistrate Thys Taljaard told the Camperdown Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

“Police officers who deem themselves to be above the law are not automatically entitled to bail,” he said, refusing bail to Constable Hlanganani Nxumalo (28).

“There’s a history of VIP members terrorising road users and having no regard for the law. Can one really blame the press for referring to them as the blue-light gang of KwaZulu-Natal?”

Nxumalo, of the Alexandra Road police barracks in Pietermaritzburg, allegedly shot out 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.

The court had earlier heard that Nxumalo was not attending to any emergency when he allegedly shot out the tyre of the car he was overtaking.

However, he was in a hurry to pick up KwaZulu-Natal social development minister Meshack Radebe, who he was tasked with protecting.

Handing down his ruling, Taljaard said: “If the evidence is accepted by the trial court, I have no doubt a conviction will follow.

“This incident is what would appear to be a modus operandi used by them.”

He pointed out that those assigned to VIP duties were police officers like Nxumalo and that “these are allegations against the very people meant to uphold the law”.

He said Nxumalo had failed to prove that it would be in the interests of justice to be released on bail—as required by law.

Nxumalo had been charged with eight counts of attempted murder and one count of malicious damage to property.

Investigating officer Inspector Jerome Mngadi told the court: “According to the driver [of the VW 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 8.30am.”

“They were rushing because they were late. There was no emergency,” he testified.

Questioned by magistrate Taaljaard, Mngadi conceded that, had it not been for eyewitnesses who took down the Golf’s registration, police would not have known to whom it belonged.

He said witnesses reported that the Golf had its blue lights flashing. The driver was also flashing the car’s 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 [provincial minister of] social development 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 Constable 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 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.

State prosecutor Rakesh Keshurpersad said Nxumalo 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 spokesperson 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 ministers 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 spokesperson Superintendent Henry Budhram said police were still busy with investigations.

“The possibility that the driver may be charged cannot be ruled out at this time,” he said.

The matter was postponed to December 11.—Sapa

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