The dashcam footage from the cash-in-transit van shows how Lee Prinsloo and Lloyd Mthombeni responded to an attempted heist by AK-47-wielding robbers in Pretoria.
Prinsloo is a retired police special forces operator who, unfortunately for the would-be robbers, is still a lead training instructor for the country’s most elite unit. Meanwhile it was Mthombeni’s first week on the job.
VICE World News showed the footage to Dermont Cosgrove, an ex-French Foreign Legionnaire who's spent the last 25 years doing close protection and security work in the energy and mining sectors for his thoughts on how the team performed.
“[Mthombeni] looks like he’s had about 5 days on the job, and as with those companies, a minimal [amount] of training so he’s following the directions he’s been given,” Cosgrove said via Signal messenger from an undisclosed location in the Sahara.
This is exactly right – according to South African media reports, Mthombeni had just started at the company with a handful of days of training. But what stands out is how clearly he knows to only follow directions and otherwise remain calm as Prinsloo focuses on driving.
Cosgrove said this is clear as Prinsloo tells Mthombeni to prepare the AR-15 style rifle for action as he continues to drive.
“[Mthombeni] has the presence of mind to put a round in the chamber and safety it while his partner is trying to evade,” he said. “I’d say it’s the first ever contact he’s been in and those guys don’t usually practice contact drills.”
Prinsloo calls on Mthombeni a second time after the rifle has been readied, ordering him to call two other drivers also making deliveries in an effort to determine if the attack is broader than just one incident. It’s an incredibly professional move by Prinsloo as he’s evasive driving under automatic weapons fire to multitask on both the threat in front of him and the potential threat to the other teams.
But some YouTube critics pointed out Mthombeni failed to make the call in the course of the video. But the footage clearly shows his efforts to scroll through the contacts on Prinsloo’s iPhone during a high-speed car chase and shootout, while holding two guns.
“Can’t be done,” said Cosgrove. “Dude, I can barely scroll through my contacts sitting at my desk.”
The team should have been using handheld radios that don’t require scrolling but Cosgrove said the problems with equipment are related to why Mthombeni was starring in a real-life action movie scene with just a handful of training hours: Money.
“Some companies don’t use handheld VHF unless they can get encrypted sets and then they might not buy them because the companies are cheap bastards,” he said.
And that’s where South Africa’s racial history gets involved: With high levels of crime and huge security expenses for most companies, the corners get cut by pairing older, very experienced veterans of South Africa’s police and military, generally white guys, and pairing them with more inexperienced Black employees.
Prinsloo, with his extensive background as a top police commando and weapons instructor, handled everything perfectly in terms of recognising the attack, Cosgrove said, repeatedly using his vehicle’s momentum to escape the planned kill zone, even turning back into the attack in a high speed U-turn to try to end the pursuit. And Cosgrove said only leaving the vehicle to fight after it was immobilised was the correct move but it’s also when Prinsloo made his first mistake.
“[He] was still belted in with the M4 in his hand when he tried to exit which could’ve cost him his life,” said Cosgrove, pointing to a lack of drills for even someone as experienced as Prinsloo. “Again that shows that they aren’t running contact drills.”