Pelindaba break-in 'inside job'

Joel Avni

The African Christian Democratic Party wants President Thabo Mbeki to intervene in the investigation of the attack by two armed gangs on the Pelindaba nuclear facility last week.

Two bands of armed attackers broke into the facility shortly after midnight last Thursday.

One group was driven off after a shootout with a guard. The other group penetrated the country's key nuclear facility and shot senior staff member Anton Gerber.

Gerber summoned security reinforcements and valiantly fought off the marauders despite being shot through the lung. He is recovering in hospital in Pretoria.

ACDP president Kenneth Meshoe has called for a formal commission of inquiry to determine how armed attackers were able to bypass the security systems at one of South Africa's most closely guarded national key points.

"We believe that the intruders who managed to disarm the security alarm must have had inside knowledge," he said.

"We want to know how they managed to disable a multiple-level security system.

"It is embarrassing that a country that is hosting the International Atomic Energy Agency convention on nuclear safety soon should have such serious security breach."

Meshoe said he was not sure what South Africa could teach other countries about security at nuclear sites after such an embarrassing incident.

The apparently coordinated attack by two separate armed bands was clearly not a robbery gone wrong.

"Management of the plant must come clean rather than call what happened just another event of criminal activity," he said.