AK-toting bodyguards in viral video should be criminally charged: experts

08 September 2017 - 06:34 By Nathi Olifant And Jeff Wicks and Matthew Savides

Two gun-toting bodyguards assigned to protect one of the ANC's key leaders in KwaZulu-Natal should be criminally charged after they were caught on a video brandishing firearms, including what looks like an AK-47 assault rifle, experts said.

A viral video of the two men - who the ANC admitted on Thursday were part of eThekwini region chairman Bheki Ntuli's security detail - shows them threatening to kill a "dog".

The two men are seated in the front of a car, each brandishing and cocking pistols, while the man in the driver's seat pulls out and cocks what appears to be an AK-47 assault rifle, or at least a replica.

The source of the video is not known, but it has been circulated widely on social networking sites and was broadcast by eNCA. The video was also sent to the Moerane Commission, which is sitting in KwaZulu-Natal to investigate political violence in the province. The commission secretary confirmed receiving and watching the video, but did not comment further.

In the video one of the men is heard saying in Zulu: "It's coming down for the dog today. The dog will die. Bitch. Arsehole."

The second man comments: "Ek se it's going down. It's gonna go down for real today. How's this now?" He then pulls out and cocks his rifle.

It is unclear who or what the men are referring to.

Ntuli told The Times on Thursday that he wanted the men removed from his security detail urgently, and said their actions were unacceptable.

"I can confirm that we have spoken to the security firm and asked that they be withdrawn until an investigation is done. We also want to establish when the video was recorded. The contents of the video are not acceptable," he said in a brief phone call.

KwaZulu-Natal is gripped by political violence, with at least 10 people killed this year alone. Most recently, former ANCYL secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa died on Monday, seemingly from injuries sustained when he and two colleagues from Umzimkhulu Municipality were shot at more than a dozen times in July. The two colleagues survived the shooting.

Only a select group of gun-owners in South Africa - known as "Category A" collectors - are allowed to own original AK-47s, said Gun Owners South Africa chairman Paul Oxley.

There were only "about 200-odd" such collectors in the country, he said, and a small number of them actually owned the Russian-built automatic rifles.

In fact, Oxley - and SA Gun Owners' Association chairman Martin Hood - said that fully-automatic rifles were outlawed for everyone else. However, semi-automatic versions could be licensed and used. Security companies often used these types of weapons.

"It is probably a semi-automatic version," said Oxley, who added there was few differences between automatic and semi-automatic.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, the ANC moved to distance itself from the bodyguards.

"The African National Congress strongly denounces and distances itself from this irresponsible display of weapons, irrespective of the purpose for which it was done," it said.

Hood agreed that criminal charges should be pursued.

"Forget whether it is an AK-47 or semi-automatic or whatever, what they are doing is illegal. The Firearms Control Act specially deals with carrying firearms in public, and the Act provides that if you're going to carry a weapon in public it must be concealed. Simple. If they don't conceal it, they are committing an offence. When it comes to a rifle, the act dictates it must be in a bag or carrier," he said.

Institute of Security Studies researcher Chandre Gould said the video was disturbing, especially in the context of spiralling political assassinations in the province.

"The disrespect for human life, the machismo and apparent hatred expressed by these men does not bode well for this long and difficult period running up to national elections in 2019," she said.