Mayor’s guards harass traffic officer over guns

2009-10-16 00:00

POLICE were called to the Washington Road Traffic Department depot on Wednesday following an alleged scuffle between traffic officers there.

According to police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram, a case of intimidation has been opened by a traffic officer who was threatened by two officers attached to the VIP protection unit responsible for guarding Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo.

Budhram said the two traffic officers demanded to be given guns, but were refused, and that’s when the incident occurred.

Sources alleged the two are without their regular service firearms as theirs had gone for ballistic testing after they were involved in shooting incidents unrelated to their official duties. The incidents are now under investigation by the police.

A close source said the mayor’s guards approached the traffic officer in charge of the gun safe and demanded he hand them new weapons.

“When he refused, because he needs written notice to this effect from his superiors, they pushed him into his office, and locked the door.”

They then allegedly “roughed him up, and stuck their fingers up his nose and pushed him around”, said the source.

The police were called, but according to the source, when they arrived were told to stand down as they were not needed.

Budhram said the officer in charge of the gun safe felt threatened by the actions of the mayor’s guards.

Sources said when that the bodyguards locked the door, the man in charge of the guns was shouting “Are you holding me hostage?”

“The secretaries were running around terrified. Eventually other traffic officers kicked open the door.”

But this was disputed by Kenneth Chetty, acting head of the traffic department, who said there was an argument over guns, but that the door was closed and not locked.

He said the officer in charge of the guns refused to give the bodyguards the LM5 rifle they wanted as they were taking Hlatshwayo to the Estcourt area to attend the Imbabazane by-election.

“They have their 9 mm [pistols], but they wanted extra protection because of the volatile situation in

Estcourt. No one roughed anyone up. It was an argument; they were picking on each other.”

Chetty alleged that the officer has the sole discretion to issue firearms, but refused to do so for reasons unknown.

“Eventually Kevin Perumal, as the acting municipal manager, instructed him to do so. The mayor had to cancel her trip to Estcourt as her bodyguards did not have the rifle.”

Chetty said the bodyguards were “innocent until proven guilty” of the allegations.

He said an investigation will be carried out to determine why the gun was not issued immediately to the bodyguards. “They felt intimidated because of this.”

The officer in charge of the gun safe refused to comment when approached by The Witness yesterday. Sources said he was summoned to city hall yesterday to give reasons why he should not be suspended.

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