By Malibongwe Dayimani
East London police have launched a manhunt for 16 heavily armed men who escaped with R680 00, airtime vouchers worth R2 000 and customers’ cellphones and wallets when they robbed two shops in Oriental Plaza on Tuesday.
The assailants held customers hostage and assaulted one shop assistant before robbing the customers and businesses managers.
The dramatic incident took place at Mohamed Cash and Carry and Bizmillah Supermarket shortly after 5pm. Customers were told to lie down before the alleged robbers also took their cellphones and money.
The alleged criminals took a combined R68000 worth of business takings from the two shops and airtime worth R2000 from Bizmillah.
According to Bizmillah owner Hossain Rubel, seven customers were forced to the ground and robbed before R3000 and airtime was taken.
Eight suspects did the robbing while another eight stood guard outside, said Mohammed Nur Hossain of the Mohamed shop. “There were five customers but one of them panicked and ran outside. They took R65000 from my till.”
Two hawkers outside the shops and an elderly man working at the Oriental Plaza taxi rank fell victim to the robbery.
Zolile Tshaka, 75, said he withdrew all his R1600 social grant money to buy groceries for his five children and three grandchildren when his wallet was snatched by robbers.
Hawker Nozi Mkoposhe said the R800 she had made from selling vegetables and meat was taken by the robbers.
East London police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Hazel Mqala said a case of business robbery was being investigated by the Fleet Street police.