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Armed men raid cellphone shop

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The MTN branch in the North Cape Mall was robbed just before closing time on Wednesday evening, when four men armed with firearms casually walked into the store, held up the staff and escaped with a number of high-value cellphones and hardware

CLOSING TIME: While ordinary members of the public were going about their business in one of Kimberleys busiest malls, four armed robbers walked into a cellphone retailer, held up staff and escaped with phones and hardware. The MTN branch in the North Cape Mall was robbed just before closing time on Wednesday evening, when four men armed with firearms casually walked into the store, held up the staff and escaped with a number of high-value cellphones and hardware. Picture: Danie van der Lith

WHILE ordinary members of the public were going about their business in one of Kimberley’s busiest malls, four armed robbers walked into a cellphone retailer, held up staff and escaped with phones and hardware . . . without raising any alarms.

According to management at the North Cape Mall this has been the third armed robbery of a cellular store in the Province in the past week.

The MTN branch in the North Cape Mall was robbed just before closing time on Wednesday evening, when four men armed with firearms casually walked into the store, held up the staff and escaped with a number of high-value cellphones and hardware.

Police spokesperson, Captain Olebogeng Tawana, yesterday confirmed that the police were investigating a case of robbery.

“The Northern Cape police are investigating a case of robbery after a cellphone retailer was robbed. It is alleged that four men armed with firearms entered the store at a local shopping mall between 5pm and 5.30pm and held the staff at gunpoint. They then escaped with a large quantity of cellphones,” Tawana said.

He added that the suspects fled the scene in a getaway vehicle while the store’s staff member survived the ordeal without any injuries.

However, the “brazen” manner in which the robbery took place, with suspects reportedly not wearing balaclavas, and the casual way in which they entered the business premises while taking their time to apparently “clear the entire shop’s stock”, raised several questions yesterday.

According to sources it is possible that the robbers had inside information. The shop’s safe was also apparently standing open when the robbers entered.

The branch was yesterday closed for business and employees were seen casually drinking coffee and playing on their phones behind locked doors, sitting among the empty shelves.

MTN spokesperson, Mthokozisi Ndlovu, yesterday confirmed that an armed robbery occurred at one of its stores located in the North Cape Mall in Kimberley.

“All four armed suspects fled the scene with several handsets. No injuries were reported during the incident and no arrests have been made yet. Post-traumatic counselling for the employees and customers that were present during this incident has been arranged. All stolen handsets are in the process of being blocked on the network, Ndlovu said.

He added that MTN was currently in discussions with the North Cape Mall management to increase security.

“Going forward, from a dealer level, the store will be monitored during business hours offsite to increase response time from our armed security company,” he said.

Head of Retail for the PHG group (North Cape Mall), Brett Exner, said that while the incident was regarded as an isolated incident for the North Cape Mall, as it was only the second armed robbery in eight years since the mall opened, it was the third robbery of a cellular store in the Northern Cape region in the past week.

“Similar crimes were committed in Hartswater and Kuruman during the past week and in all likelihood points to the work of the same group/syndicate of perpetrators. Malls and shopping centres across South Africa are becoming targets of armed robberies and we do not believe that this incident is isolated to Kimberley,” Exner said.

He added that the North Cape Mall security team had provided CCTV footage and statements from the security detail on duty at the time to the police who were investigating the incident.

“All mall/centre processes were fully operational at the time and reaction times to the incident were highly professional and we have assisted the police in the immediate investigation of the incident,” he said.