2007-10-15 : Armed gangs pillage shops in CBD

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2007-10-15 : Armed gangs pillage shops in CBD

Postby GOSA » Tue, 2007-11-06 06:47

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1 ... 771C632154

Armed gangs pillage shops in CBD
Lee Rondganger
October 15 2007 at 08:49AM

Gangs of armed robbers are terrorising shopowners in the Johannesburg
city centre in an area no bigger than two football pitches.

Heavily armed and often violent, the gangs have targeted linen and
clothing shops in the bustling trading area sandwiched between Gerard
Sekoto Street and Kort Street.

The area has seen nearly a dozen attacks in the past seven months,
despite being monitored by six CCTV cameras and scores of security

According to shopowners, most of the attacks occur just after they
open their doors or when they are about to close, and the modus
operandi of the gangs is similar

'We are living in fear'
"They rush in, cock their guns, force the staff to lie on the ground,
take the money from the tills, rob the staff and customers of money
and cellphones, and get out quickly," said one shopowner.

The latest attack occurred last week when six men stormed Aazies
Boutique in Market Street.

According to the store manager, Alli Akbar, the robbery took only a
couple of minutes.

Last month, a robbery caught on internal surveillance cameras at
Aazies Cash and Carry in Gerard Sekoto Street shows the military
precision of the gangs.

Footage of the robbery was viewed by The Star:

'It is bad, but what can we do?'
# 7.50am: The Aazies Cash and Carry staff arrive for work.

# 7.52am: Two minutes later the first two robbers arrive at the
entrance. The security guard stops them, telling them that the store
is not open yet. They overpower him and shove him against a wall. One
of the robbers searches him. Five more robbers enter the store and
proceed to the shop floor on the first level. Two robbers stand guard
at the entrance.

# 7.53am: At least 10 robbers are in the store. They begin pushing
workers to the floor, forcing them to lie down. While two men proceed
to the cash register, the other robbers secure the shop floor and
start robbing workers of cellphones and money.

# 7.55am: More staff members arrive for work, not knowing that they
are walking into a robbery. The robbers slap them and force them to
lie on the ground.

# 7.57am: Two of the robbers have already emptied half the cash
registers. At the last cash register, one of the robbers assaults an
elderly cashier with the back of his gun. He strikes him several

# 7.58am: The robbers stuff the money they have stolen in blue plastic
bags and leave the premises.

It has taken them six minutes to empty all the cash registers and
steal nearly a dozen cellphones.

The South African Police Service says it is fighting back, and in the
past week, 16 alleged gang members have been arrested.

SAPS spokesperson Constable Sefako Xaba said the police had identified
three distinct gangs targeting the traders.

"There is a Soweto gang, there is a gang that comes from Zimbabwe and
there is a group that comes from KwaZulu-Natal.

"We have been able to make good progress in identifying these people
and we will be making arrests soon.

"The traders in this area know that we have an open-door policy
towards them and we are doing our best to combat the attacks," he

Because of the spate of attacks, traders have employed more than a
dozen security guards through the local community policing forum to
patrol the streets.

Despite this, the attacks have continued.

Goolam Ismail, 55, who has lived in the area all his life, said the
reason why the community policing forum patrols were ineffective was
because the people were not trained to deal with this type of crime.

"These are people who they have just taken off the streets and are
paying R50 a day. What we need is better police visibility on the
ground. Why don't the police do foot patrols anymore?" he asked.

Eskender Abebe, an Ethiopian trader and the owner of Daniel
Wholesalers in Market Street, said shopowners felt powerless.

"We are living in fear. It is as if 50 percent of the time I work for
myself and the other 50 percent I work for the robbers.

"It is bad, but what can we do?"

o This article was originally published on page 2 of The
Star on October 15, 2007
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