Armoured car saves owner from assassins

In scenes reminiscent of a movie, a Durban businessman’s armoured vehicle saved his life, shielding him from a hail of gunmen’s bullets while driving to work last week.

The high-profile businessman, Thabiso Ngcobo, said he was driving on the M13 near Pinetown, when three unmarked vehicles with blue lights flashing tried to ram him off the road.

“After a tip-off about security threats on my life, I bought an armoured vehicle. I was anonymously told that I had ‘poked a bear’. There is a profile case with the police, which was registered after an incident at one of my business premises and that case is still pending,” he said.

Ngcobo told The Witness his assailants wore camouflage and balaclavas.

“As soon as I realised that I was being chased by unmarked vehicles with blue lights, I immediately called the provincial police commissioner [Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Nene],” said Ngcobo.

As soon as I pulled over, two guys from a Suzuki were already pointing rifles at my car. Behind me, guys in two other cars [a Golf 8 and a Toyota SUV] had jumped out of the cars and shouted at me to get out of my car. He said one man from the Golf stepped out and approached his car banging the window with the muzzle of his rifle. The man took four steps back and fired at my car. There was a volley of shots fired at my vehicle and that’s when it hit me that these men meant to kill me.

“If you look at where the bullets hit the car, that is evidence that I would have died on the spot had it not been for the safety of my car,” he said.

Ngcobo said he was involved in the construction and transport space, and he lodged a high-profile case following threats he received at one of his business premises.

The case was confirmed by Police Minister Bheki Cele earlier this year.

“There is a case, but I cannot associate it with the attempt on my life. Fresh developments are that the attempted murder and malicious property damage cases have been moved from the Durban police station to the district detectives. The pictures of my car show it is clear that these people wanted to kill me. I have had no direct communication from the investigators yet,” said Ngcobo.

He said he found it difficult to move around without security, and that he did not see his family the way he would want to because he has to be confined in one area.

He said provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi instructed him to drive to a safer place, which happened to be the Pavilion Shopping Centre, where he met up with men, who were sent by Mkhwanazi to diffuse the situation.

“At least 21 spent cartridges were found at the scene,” he said.

His brother, Njabulo, said the attack was clearly planned as these vehicles had manoeuvred until they boxed him in, forcing his brother to stop the car.

“He was fortunate that he was driving this car and that he did not open the doors or windows,” he said.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Robert Netshiunda said the investigation into the matter was ongoing and that district detectives were handling it.

Commenting on the assailants using blue lights, KZN violence monitor and honorary research fellow at the UKZN’s School of Law Mary De Haas said it was difficult to pin the case on the police as criminals often used police uniforms and blue lights.

This is the job of crime intelligence to monitor and undertake an assessment on the man’s security.

“Without evidence, Ipid cannot do much,” said De Haas.