A violent altercation between Durban revellers and the president’s bodyguards is under investigation
A dramatic late-night shootout between three military members of the presidential protection unit and revellers at a Durban beachfront birthday party is now under investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).
At least 52 bullet shells were retrieved from the scene.
The bulk are believed to have been fired from the R5 assault rifles of the three, who are all members of the SA Special Forces Brigade, colloquially known as the Recces.
According to a provisional police report, a total of five weapons were seized after the incident and these will now undergo ballistics tests.
The confiscated weapons included the three rifles; a 9mm service pistol believed to belong to one of the partygoers, who is a captain from the Wentworth Police Station; and another pistol similar to it.
According to a senior defence force officer, the protection unit members were part of a group guarding President Cyril Ramaphosa during the ANC’s 107th anniversary celebrations at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
The shootout occurred last Saturday night at about 11pm at Ansteys Beach, a popular hangout and picnic spot, after the bodyguards and partygoers became involved in a confrontation. This was after the bulk of the official ANC festivities were over.
There are differing accounts of who fired the first shot.
One version is that the policeman pulled out his weapon first and fired, wounding a soldier on his thigh but that the cop claims he was only firing a warning shot.
It is claimed that the other two soldiers then ran to their black official military Mercedes ML service vehicle to fetch their R5 rifles and all hell broke loose.
Two women in the party group were wounded in the head, presumably by the soldiers’ fire. A man in the group was also reportedly shot in the leg.
The wounded civilians were taken to Wentworth Hospital for treatment, while the soldier was transported to a military clinic.
Another version of events goes that the two groups began arguing and that racist utterances resulted in a shootout.
Melani Simon, one of the revellers, is reported to have said that the group were celebrating a 50th birthday and one person in the group was struggling to unlock their car door.
That person asked the soldiers for help, which resulted in a heated argument.
The police’s Special Task Force was called to the scene, followed by a military team.
According to the police report, seen by sister newspaper Rapport, no arrests were made because of the varying accounts of what went on at the scene.
There are no surveillance cameras in the area to help shed light on what happened.
On Tuesday, Ramaphosa paid an official visit to the headquarters of the SA National Defence Force, but the army has remained tight-lipped about the violent incident.
Spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi said last week that the incident was a “private matter” and that the army would not be commenting on it.
According to Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini, the police are investigating two separate cases of assault and of attempted murder.
Sources claim that after the incident, the soldiers returned to their guesthouse, where the commander of the medical group who were part of the president’s protection team told them they should not worry as he would be handling the matter.