A Port Elizabeth municipal official was killed in a shootout between robbers and a security escort assigned to protect refuse collection staff.
One of the suspects was also shot dead.
Chaos erupted in Motherwell at about 8.30pm on Sunday when the gang of four attacked two municipal security officials who were escorting a refuse truck during a night collection and demanded their weapons.
Municipal security officer Mxolisi Mvula, 43, was shot in the head, while one of the suspects also died in the hail of bullets.
Detectives confirmed yesterday they would be investigating whether the incident was linked to the ongoing feud between the municipality and refuse collectors over lunch and tea breaks, or if it was a robbery.
According to police, a marked municipal security vehicle had been following the refuse truck to provide protection.
It was ambushed in Qakela Street as it waited behind the truck, which had stopped to pick up refuse.
The attack comes after municipal management applied to the Port Elizabeth Labour Court last week for an interdict against the refuse workers, who are reportedly on a go-slow.
The dispute started three weeks ago when some employees embarked on a strike after the municipality decided to cut an extra bonus – referred to as a “completion bonus” – which they had been receiving since 2013.
The metro then signed an agreement with the workers to pay them a once-off bonus to compensate for dropping the additional R1 300 they had been receiving monthly.
Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said the shootout happened seconds before the relief security shift arrived at the scene.
“As the relief shift arrived in Qakela Street, they saw four men fighting with the security of ficials,” Beetge said.
“It appears the suspects had snuck up on the two security officials while they were parked in the street. “The gunmen held both at gunpoint and demanded their firearms.”
“One of ficial’s firearm was stolen while the other of ficial fought to keep his weapon. “As the relief shift arrived, the suspects opened fire on the approaching security vehicle. “The four suspects then fled between houses, still shooting at the officials chasing them.”
Beetge said one of the security vehicles sped off to adjacent Tyinira Road in an attempt to corner the suspects.
“One suspect . . . ran towards the security vehicle, shooting with a firearm in each hand,” he said.
“During the shooting, one of the security officials [Mvula] was shot dead and the gunman sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the upper body.”
Beetge said the suspect died in hospital at 5am. He had still been clutching the security official’s Glock firearm and another weapon in his hands when he was found.
Asked if detectives were investigating a possible link to the ongoing refuse worker dispute, Beetge said all angles were being probed.
Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said an internal investigation was under way.
“At this stage, it does not seem to be connected to the refuse collection action,” he said.
Asked why the refuse collection staff were under guard, Mniki said they did not feel safe working at night.
“[Security] services were provided as per the request of public health, according to whom there may have been threats , ” he said.
However, municipal safety and security head John Best said the security deployment was standard procedure to protect staff when they worked at night.
“There was no threat of an impending attack or anything of such a nature,” he said.
“This was a purely criminal element and I believe that they were after their firearms.”