Radebe: Media out to get me

The man at the centre of the N3 Highway ‘blue-light terror” rumpus—KwaZulu-Natal social development minister Meshack Radebe—has accused the media of blowing the incident out of proportion.

Interviewed on Wednesday Radebe shrugged off the incident in which a member of his VIP protection unit shot out the tyre of a car traveling in front of Radebe’s official vehicle, causing a collision in which eight people were injured.

‘How can an incident that happened 50km away from me have anything to do with me?” Radebe asked.

Radebe’s 28-year-old bodyguard, Constable Hlanganani Nxumalo, appeared in the Camperdown magistrate’s court on Wednesday, charged with eight counts of attempted murder and one of malicious damage to property.

Nxumalo, who was refused bail, told the court that he was not dealing with an emergency at the time of the incident and that he was in a hurry to collect Radebe.
Radebe confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that he had indeed asked Nxumalo and a policeman identified only as Constable Ndlela to arrive at his house ‘earlier” as the KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sbu Ndebele, had given him business to attend to urgently.

He said South Africans must understand that politicians are always on the road attending to people’s needs.

Radebe claimed that the media were out to ‘get him”.

Similar incidents had taken place involving his Inkatha Freedom Party ‘predecessors”, but the media had not made much of these.

The incident has led to a flurry of criticism from opposition parties including the IFP, which accused Radebe of ‘arrogance” for distancing himself from the incident.

In June the M&G reported that 76-year-old Robert Madlala and his daughter Lungile had been extracted from their Fiat Palio by the ‘jaws of life” after another one of Radebe’s protection officers, attached to the police’s VIP unit, smashed into it.

The unnamed officer, flashing blue lights, was also on his way to fetch Radebe.

A motorcyclist pushed off the road at the same time is reported to have retaliated by beating him up and then driving off.

Commenting on the Nxumalo case VIP Protection Services spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said: ‘We must allow for the law to take its course because our policemen and women know that the Criminal Procedure Act clearly states when a police officer is allowed to use his firearm.”

Meanwhile, the M&G was given a confusing picture when it tried to establish the legal rights of politicians’ motorcades in South Africa.

Naidoo said the Police Act allows officers to use blue lights and enforce right of way ‘in the execution of their duties”.

The Institute of Security Studies’ (ISS) Johan Burger has reportedly said that the use of lights is only for emergencies.

The National Traffic Act provides for emergency vehicles, including those ‘engaged in civil protection”, to ignore road signs and exceed speed limits, providing lights and sirens are on.

The Act also provides that drivers of such cars should drive with care and consideration for other motorists.

Andrew Faull of the ISS told the M&G that he is not aware of any police standing order regarding the use of blue lights, but said the police sometimes used blue lights during operations as a ‘presence amplifying strategy”.

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