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South African minister robbed at gunpoint on highway

A South African minister has confirmed she had a gun pointed at her head before being robbed and her bodyguards' weapons stolen in what police called an "unprecedented incident.

Transport Minister, Sindisiwe Chikunga said she was unhurt but traumatised by the ordeal which occurred in the early hours of Monday, November 6.

"I am in one piece," Chikunga told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday. "The whole experience was very traumatising and devastating."

Chikunga's car was forced to stop on a highway south of Johannesburg, after the tyres were punctured by spikes, the transport ministry said.

As her bodyguards got out of the vehicle to change the tyres, three "well-dressed" gunmen wearing balaclavas appeared and disarmed them, Chikunga said.

"They opened my door... pointed a gun to my head and ordered me to come out," she said.

Police said the robbers stole personal belongings and two South African Police Service (SAPS) pistols.

Chikunga said her laptop and phone were among the items stolen, adding the gunmen demanded money but she was carrying only 200 rand ($10).

"A manhunt has since been launched following this unprecedented incident and to bring to book those responsible," said police spokeswoman Athlenda Mathe.

Involving a high-profile official with an armed security detail, the incident is striking even in crime-ridden South Africa.

The nation has long had a reputation as one of the most dangerous places in the world outside a war zone.

Police recorded more than 500 robberies and almost 70 murders a day in the country of 62 million people from April to June this year.

Authorities have been accused of failing to ensure safety and secure justice for crime victims.

"The SAPS is committed to executing its mandate of protecting the executive of the country and community at large," said Mathe.

“VIP protection is one of the key priority areas for the SAPS and has been undertaken with excellence over the years.”

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