Wednesday morning turned into a tense stand-off between Jock of the Bushveld Boskombuis staff and two men who claimed to be part of Deputy President David Mabuza’s security detail, reports Lowvelder.
According to waitressing staff at the eatery, two men had followed the driver of a white Hyundai sedan, wielding rifles and threatening the motorist. Eyewitnesses alleged that the Barberton police, who were called to the scene, refused to open a case.
Lizelle Marcus, who is employed at the restaurant, said: “We were seated behind the bar when we experienced a power outage at about 8.15am. We heard loud sirens, and thinking that the alarms had been set off, we went outside to investigate.”
According to Marcus and two other employees, Valencia Fakude and Aneska Ludick, two men were on the premises involved in an altercation with the Hyundai driver. The trio said Fakude held her phone in the air to check her network reception when the men pointed their rifles in their direction, demanding that any photos and video footage be deleted.
The three employees fled into the bush on the property when the men advanced towards them. They added that a colleague named Sipho provided their names to the gun-wielding pair who called out to them, saying they would not leave until they appeared.
The owner, Tia Rautenbach, said: “They announced themselves as ‘Mabuza’s special force’ and we requested that they provide some form of identification to verify this claim.
“One of the men turned on the siren in the gold Subaru they were driving and said, ‘That’s enough proof’.”
Rautenbach added that the cards they produced were badly weathered and she was unable to read the names. She questioned their motives for entering the property.
“They said we were filming them, but when the staff came out, they did not ask to see their phones to ascertain whether they were doing so.”
According to Rautenbach, the Barberton police were on the scene, but refused to open a docket. She added that a senior police official was on the scene and did not say anything, but merely tried to calm the situation without taking the witness statements to lay a charge against the two men.
As a result, they turned to the Mbombela police, who arrived after the traumatised waitresses had been sent home. This meant that they too, did not open a docket.
“We want a case of harassment opened because they were kicking doors and refused to announce who they were. They put the lives of my staff and customers at risk and behaved as though they were above the law,” she added.
Boskombuis neighbour Lukie van Niekerk, who was first on the scene, said: “I received an alert about a robbery at Jock and, as they are just across the road from me, proceeded to investigate the goings-on.
“On my arrival, I noted that the two men armed with R5 automatic rifles were still there. What followed was a stand-off as we pointed our rifles at each other.
“They appeared nervous and wanted nothing but to leave, but I had blockaded the entrance with my vehicle and contacted the Barberton police for assistance.”
Van Niekerk said the men were travelling in an unmarked gold Subaru. Their version of events was that they had followed an SBV vehicle, which was forcing other motorists off the R40, adding that they claimed to have followed the driver.
He continued: “If that were the case, how did they end up at Boskombuis?”
Repeated attempts to reach Engelbrecht were unsuccessful at the time of publication. The deputy president’s spokesperson, Thami Ngwenya, said Mabuza was on the campaign trail in Gauteng at the time of the fracas.
The vehicle in question has been confirmed as being registered to the Specialised Support Presidential Protection Service SAPS.
Ngwenya directed Lowvelder to the SAPS, saying they were the relevant agency to contact regarding Mabuza’s protection detail. The provincial police have remained tight-lipped about the incident, and have declined to comment.
Further inquiries were escalated to the national commissioner’s spokesperson, Brig Vish Naidoo. He said he would investigate the incident and provide feedback. This was not received at the time of publication.
According to Rautenbach, subsequent attempts to open a case were unsuccessful. She said the three employees went to the Barberton Police Station on Friday and Sunday, but that officials have been unwilling to help them with opening a case.
“The guy that they attacked in the street was driving a white Hyundai. I wish we could get hold of him,” she said.
Ngwenya and the Mpumalanga provincial police spokesperson, Brig Leonard Hlathi, would not confirm nor deny the incident.
Hlathi said he had been in contact with the restaurant’s management. “I spoke to them over the weekend and the Barberton police station commander, Col Johan Engelbrecht who was on leave at the time, is due to meet with them on Monday regarding the incident.”
In the meantime, the three waitresses remain shaken.
Marcus added: “We were not filming them and we are afraid. What if they come back?”