‘VIP officers feared threat to mayor’

2013-10-15 00:00

BODYGUARDS protecting Umgungundlovu district mayor Yusuf Bhamjee believed his life was in danger when they opened fire on a motorist on the N3 last week.

Their lawyer said this outside court after Thulasizwe Mbanjwa (39) and Sthembiso Mokoena (40) appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court charged with attempted murder yesterday. Their attorney, Sphiwe Mncwango, said they had acted appropriately given the circumstances.

“The issue here is: was it necessary to shoot or was it not? We are saying it was necessary because my clients believed that the mayor’s life was in danger,” said Mncwango.

He would not elaborate on the matter, saying it was now before court.

Mncwango said the men were well trained in their field and would have injured the motorist, identified only as Wynand, had it been their intention to do so. “They fired warning shots in the air, an indication that their intention was not to cause harm,” he said.

Mncwango said he had informed the investigating officer about his clients’ intention to hand themselves over to the police on Friday.

“We arranged this on Friday and today [yesterday] at 7 am we were at the police station. My clients were charged like everyone else — statements were taken and they even handed in their firearms to the investigating officer. They were then detained until their appearance in court,” he said.

The state alleges that Wynand’s car was shot at after he allegedly failed to give way to the mayoral entourage. It says a passenger in a vehicle with a blue light fired two shots at Wynand’s car, who then stopped. The driver of the vehicle stopped and alighted, and also fired two shots at the car.

The state indicated that some aspects of the investigation were still to be concluded, including tests on the firearms used by the men.

At the state’s request, magistrate W. Robinson postponed the matter to November 18 for further investigation. Mbanjwa and Mokoena were granted bail of R5 000 each.

Commenting on the appearance of two officers in connection with the matter, municipal manager Sbu Khuzwayo was adamant that only one VIP officer was suspended.

“The statement issued at the weekend was crafted by myself and I still maintain that I only know of one employee who was suspended. I was recently made to understand by the supervisor in that unit that the police had requested that a second person make himself available in connection with the case. I’m in the dark as to why the second person had to be involved in the court proceedings and the supervisor is yet to give me a statement detailing the involvement of the officer in the matter,” he said.

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