‘Speed up to avoid convoy’

2011-10-12 00:00

MOTORISTS confronted with oncoming VIP protection unit vehicles with flashing blue lights and sirens blaring are expected to drive faster and even exceed the speed limit if they can’t pull over in time to let the vehicle go past.

This evidence was given yesterday by Martin Khanyile, a training officer with Protection Security Services (PSS) for 17 years.

Khanyile said the flashing lights and sirens indicate there is an “emergency” and as such the motorist is expected to speed up, even if it means driving faster than the speed limit, and to pull over as soon as possible after passing the other traffic.

Asked whether PSS members are allowed to break the “normal rules of the road” to get to pick up a government minister on time, he replied that in essence this is “not breaking the rules of the road” because they had to get there on time.

Khanyile was testifying for the defence at the trial of VIP protection unit members Hlanganani Nxumalo and Caiphus Ndlela.They face charges arising from an incident in which Nxumalo admittedly fired two “warning shots” on the N3 highway, which allegedly caused a collision on November 15, 2008.

Khanyile said yesterday that from the account given by the defence during the trial, he “applauds” the actions of the two accused under the circumstances.

He added, however, that in his view they ought to have “eliminated the threat from the word go”, but declined to elaborate on what they should have done.

He said that since the car in question had failed to respond to the blue lights, did not pull over and instead applied brakes, and subsequently “swerved” towards the PSS car as alleged by Nxumalo, it seemed the actions of the other driver were “planned”.

Khanyile said training is given to protection services members on how to use their vehicles “as a weapon” and on the use of firearms to eliminate threats to their own safety and that of the ministers they guard.

However, he refused to elaborate on what they are taught, saying it is classified for security reasons.

He explained that when on foot the act of merely producing and cocking a firearm could be sufficient warning, said while in a vehicle one might “fire a shot in the air as a warning”.

“That warning shot is to make the person stop what he or she is doing.

“If that person continues to do what they are doing one is left with no option but to shoot at the vehicle.

“If there is a minister on board then it’s clear one has to shoot directly at the driver that is doing that,” he said.

The MEC was not in the vehicle at the time of the incident.

Khanyile told regional magistrate Chris van Vuuren there is “poor public awareness” in KwaZulu-Natal about the need for motorists not to impede “blue light” vehicles. In other provinces public awareness is much better.

“I appeal to this court to educate the public,” he said.

The case is proceeding.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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