Editorials 16.4.2017 11:21 am

So who believes the Dlamini-Zuma ‘armed gunmen’ stories?

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at Ahmed Kathrada's funeral, 29 March 2017. Picture: Tracy-Lee Stark

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at Ahmed Kathrada's funeral, 29 March 2017. Picture: Tracy-Lee Stark

Government appears keen to yet again insult SA’s intelligence with pathetic, childish fantasy stories about phantom balaclava-clad criminals.

We all know politicians lie, but the apparent flailing attempts to try to come up with a story about “threats” to the ANC’s presidential hopeful have passed ridiculous and actually seem rather childish.

Reports that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is enjoying VIP protection normally only reserved for senior state functionaries have been decried by opposition parties and civil society.

Since her departure from the African Union, she is currently nothing more than a private citizen and yet still enjoys expensive VIP security protection, paid for by the taxpayer.

The DA has condemned the “appalling abuse” of police resources and called on Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to explain the reasons for the protection. They intend to submit questions about it in parliament.

The Congress of the People intends to press charges against Mbalula over the matter.

Sunday newspapers have now provided some “insight” into what appears to be the strategy of the SA Police Service (SAPS) and government to explain why Dlamini-Zuma’s protections were extended past their official date, which had over the weekend been justified as a response to ongoing “security threats” to her.

Sources who spoke to The Sunday Independent told the paper that “at least four heavily armed criminals” allegedly tried to enter the boutique hotel at which she was staying in Houghton two weeks ago.

Apparently it was so terrifying that security at the gate had to run for cover and the gang even tried to attack former ANC MP and businessman Thaba Mufamadi when he arrived at the hotel at number 10 2nd Avenue in Houghton.

Mufamadi confirmed all of this when the paper called him, and said the gang had been wearing balaclavas. He explained he had been lucky to escape because the hotel’s gate was open, with someone else leaving the property just as he was arriving, and as a result he was able to rush inside to the relative safety of two police officers and “security guards for that area”.

This is all very dramatic, so it’s curious, therefore, that police spokesperson Kay Makhubela said the SAPS officially knew nothing about the incident and there was no case number associated with it.

A security guard at the property also said he’d never heard anything about the incident, and the hotel’s receptionist was equally unaware of any such event. He said he would have known about any such alleged attack or attempted attack if it had actually happened.

Mbalula confirmed the Houghton incident to the Sunday Times but would not say if it was the reason for extending the provision of the security detail. He also said he had visited the “crime scene”.

This paper also said the manager of the hotel knew nothing about the incident.

The Sunday Times reportedly discovered there are at least three different versions of the incident, the first that Mufamadi managed to get into the hotel unscathed; the second that he was held hostage by six heavily armed men; and the third being a version apparently reported at the Norwood Police Station allegedly involving one armed suspect who allegedly shot at Mufamadi’s car and damaged a mirror.

Obviously not all these stories can be true at the same time. It’s most probable, of course, that none of them is.

When Dlamini-Zuma was asked about her protection detail on Friday, she refused to answer. Free State premier Ace Magashule also “couldn’t respond”. The SAPS said that she was given the protection because of a “threat and security assessment”. Her blue-light convoy and VIP guard privileges should have ended on March 31.

Respectfully, government (and Mr Mufamadi), South Africa has more than enough real crime to report on without you needing to invent more of it. No one is saying you’re lying, because there’s no proof either way, but the story/stories smell seriously fishy.

Dlamini-Zuma is a private citizen, and no doubt she can afford her own security guards if she really wants them. Let’s follow the rules instead of acting like naughty children who’ve just been caught out and want to blame the monster under the bed for where the cookies went.

Here’s some of the Twitter reaction:

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