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‘We all scattered and ran for cover’: Soweto traders recount chaos during cash-in-transit heist

A G4S vehicle at a Shoprite store in Naledi, Soweto.

A G4S vehicle at a Shoprite store in Naledi, Soweto.

PHOTO: Cebelihle Bhengu/News24

  • Informal traders described how they ran for cover when G4S guards came under attack while collecting cash at a Shoprite in Naledi, Soweto.
  • One guard was wounded.
  • An 11-year-old bystander was injured.

Informal traders in Naledi, Soweto ran for cover on Monday when five, armed men stormed into the local Shoprite and opened fire on cash-in-transit guards who were collecting money at the store.

The three G4S officers collected the cash at the store at around 14:30, G4S regional cluster director for southern Africa, Renso Smit, told News24.

One guard was wounded and was taken to a nearby private hospital.

An 11-year-old bystander sustained minor injuries and she was treated on the scene, Smit added.

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When News24 arrived at the scene, the store was closed while police and G4S security guards assessed the situation.

Traders and locals told News24 that the robbers pounced shortly after the G4S vehicle arrived.

Eyewitnesses said the four assailants drove a “silver double-cab” vehicle. They parked it a short distance away from the main gate. Some of them remained in the car while the others charged into the store.

According to one trader, passers-by only realised what was happening when a gunshot went off.

He said: “We all scattered and ran for cover. More men joined the shooters, and they left with a big black bag. It seemed like a bag of cash.”

Two women who sell atchar at the main gate said they abandoned their stalls when the gunshots went off.

One of them said:

I ran after they fired the first shot. It was chaos. People were running for cover, and cars were hooting. I saw a bus driving into a small private car. The car was hit from behind. It was damaged, but there was no confrontation between the drivers. I think they just wanted to drive away for their safety. There were screams everywhere.

Jabu (not her real name) sells chicken feet in the vicinity.

She told News24: “I’ve been working here since 2018, and while robberies are common, they either occur at night or early in the morning before we arrive. If robbers come during the day, they carry guns to intimidate store owners, but they don’t fire them or shoot at people. This was a first.”

Smit called on the Presidency to urgently meet Police Minister Bheki Cele to address the continued escalation of violence and cash-in-transit heists.

READ | Robbers steal guns, money during CIT heist in Soweto

He said the company had invested significantly on resources to ensure that its teams, vehicles and equipment have the best technology, tactical support and training.

Still, he said, law enforcement agencies had no concrete action plans to mitigate and manage cash-in-transit crime in the country.

“It is deeply concerning when our guards and innocent bystanders are injured in [cash-in-transit] attacks. This sort of crime is being perpetrated by highly organised criminals who are becoming more violent in nature. 

“The reality is that the attacks are especially senseless since all of our cross-pavement devices are equipped with technology that renders 100% of the cash unusable when forced open,” Smit said.

“To tackle [cash-in-transit] attacks, we believe it’s essential that this sort of crime is prioritised; that the [cash-in-transit] task team under the SAPS be reconstituted and strengthened as a matter of urgency, and that the sector works closely with law enforcement and government to tackle this scourge together. There are not enough prosecutions and convictions to deter these criminals, who are operating with impunity.”

Gauteng police have not responded to a request for comment.

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