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MALAIKA MAHLATSI | Minister's robbery shows that to criminals, all animals are equal

Minister’s office means nothing to criminals

Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga
Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga
Image: Freddy Mavunda

A week ago, news broke that the minister of transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, along with her VIP protection unit, were robbed of their belongings, including firearms, while travelling on the N3 highway between Vosloorus and Heidelberg in Gauteng .

The tyres of the minister’s car were punctured by spikes that had been strategically placed in the road.

This tactic is used by hijackers who, after puncturing the tyres and bringing the car to a stop or forcing the driver to park on the side of the road, proceed to rob the car’s occupants.

This is apparently what happened to the minister and her VIP protection unit in the early hours of last Monday morning.

Upon hearing the news, I was, naturally, concerned about the victims of this unfortunate crime, and was glad when the department of transport reported that none of the occupants of the car were physically harmed.

In this regard, the minister and her VIP protection unit were incredibly lucky. Many people who fall victim to spiking are either subjected to severe physical violence or do not live to tell the story – either because the punctured tyres cause fatal accidents or because they end up being killed by the robbers.

While the robbery of minister Chikunga and her VIP protection unit is, quite frankly, just another incident of crime in SA, I wonder if those in power paused to reflect on how it demonstrates that they are not immune from the perilous conditions that they have hurled millions of South Africans into.

For a very long time, politicians in our country have existed in a parallel universe – one in which they have been insulated from the lived realities of ordinary people. Since leaving university, I only ever worked in political offices – in two ministries and in the office of the executive mayor in one of the metropolitan municipalities in Gauteng.

I had a front row seat to the lives of the powerful, lives that were protected and shielded from the real world in which the rest of us live.

Despite being at the very centre of the decay that defines our country, politicians are sheltered from the consequences of their decisions.

When public services deteriorate due to maladministration, corruption and misappropriation of resources, at the centre of which is poor and often complicit leadership, those in power have the option to use private services.

The same politicians who are driving the collapse of public healthcare and public education have comprehensive medical aids and use private hospitals, while their children are in private schools.

Some, acutely aware of the descent SA is in, have already sent their children to study and live out of the country, and will probably do the same when everything eventually falls apart. This may very well be one of the reasons they care so little about the consequences of their actions.

But the debilitating state of deterioration of our country, particularly with regards to crime, is rewriting the narrative. Politicians can no longer exist in a parallel universe in which their omissions and commissions have no direct impact on their lives. Minister Chikunga, in her luxurious vehicle, with armed VIP protectors surrounding her, was not immune from the crime that millions of South Africans face on a daily basis.

The office that she occupies meant nothing to criminals who could have easily done much more than just rob her and her protectors. These criminals are a product of the social, political, spatial and economic dysfunction of a country that has a pitiful excuse for leadership. They are emboldened by the ineffectiveness of the police service and the failures of the criminal justice system.

Make no mistake, I’m not encouraging or applauding crime. It is a cancer that is destroying everything that we hold dear in our country.

But the growing incidents of politicians being victims of crime is an illustration that no-one is immune from the consequences of misgovernance. When criminals raze SA to its very foundation, everyone, from the president to his cabinet, the wealthy to the poor, will be buried under the rubble. If this alone doesn’t scare politicians into action, nothing will.

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