KZN cash heist victims mournedComment on this story
Durban - The aftermath of Monday’s brazen cash heist in Richmond is being felt countrywide on Wednesday as families, friends and colleagues mourn the death of a policeman and a security guard.
Sergeant Thami Zondi and G4S security official Izak Phungula died in a hail of bullets when five men armed with AK-47 rifles carried out the robbery and then tried to make their escape after the foiled heist.
Three of the robbers were killed in a gun battle with police. A second policeman who was shot remains in a critical condition in hospital.
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, confirmed yesterday that two suspects were injured and were in hospital under police guard. They will appear in the Richmond Magistrate’s Court on charges of murder, attempted murder and attempted robbery.
Zondi’s cousin, Tshepo Zondi, said he was happy that three suspects had been killed.
“Thami was a good man and a dedicated police officer. These thugs deserved death for what they did. My family will never be the same again,” he said.
One of Phungula’s colleagues, Sizwe Ngcobo, said that he was shattered by his death.
“We understand that we are in a dangerous job and we are constantly at risk, but to lose a friend and colleague like this is hard,” Ngcobo said.
Premier Senzo Mchunu condemned the killings.
“The fallen officers displayed a high level of bravery and commitment to their work,” Mchunu said.
He was to visit Richmond yesterday to engage with community stakeholders and meet with Zondi’s family.
According to the police, five men attacked a cash van that was delivering cash to an ATM at Capitec Bank in Shepstone Street, Richmond, at about 5pm.
The robbers opened fire on Phungula while he was still at the ATM, before he could defend himself.
He died at the scene.
“Unfortunately for the suspects, in their haste and in the gunfire, the money was destroyed when the dye pack in the cash boxes exploded, coating the cash with the ink,” Naicker said.
The suspects abandoned the cash and stole Phungula’s firearm before fleeing in a blue Toyota RunX.
Naicker said the suspects fired several shots as they fled the crime scene.
“Two innocent bystanders were wounded by the suspects who were shooting at random. Police from the Richmond police station heard the gunshots and responded immediately,” said Naicker.
The swift action of the police led them to a quarry just outside Richmond where they found the suspects exchanging vehicles.
“When the suspects saw the police members they opened fire on the police vehicle. Police returned fire and in the ensuing gun battle, Sergeant Zondi was shot in the head and killed,” said Naicker.
One of the suspects was also shot dead during the shootout. The four other suspects managed to flee in a Toyota Hilux.
They were spotted by members of the Public Order Police Unit, who blocked the road.
Naicker said three of the suspects got out of the vehicle and fled into the bush.
The fourth suspect, who was badly injured, remained in the Hilux and was arrested by the police. He later died due to the severity of his injuries.
“Members of the K9 Unit also responded to the scene and went into the bush to track down the remaining three suspects.
“The suspects opened fire on police and there was an exchange of (shots), however all three were subsequently arrested,” Naicker said.
All three suspects had been wounded and one of them later died.
An AK-47 rifle and 9mm pistol were recovered from the suspects.
Cash van guard tells of living in danger
A former armoured security guard says he is still haunted by the dangers of the job after a near-death experience.
Samuel Iveson, 52, once had a gun placed against his forehead and heard the chilling words: “Give me the money or die.”
Iveson did exactly what he was told and handed over the cash to the gang of robbers.
The gang had cornered him and two colleagues at an ATM in Merrivale eight years ago.
The robbers fled, leaving Iveson and his colleagues unharmed.
“Some nights, I still can’t sleep. I can still feel the cold metal of that gun on my skin,” he told the Daily News.
Iveson, who worked for a major armoured security company for five years, said given the chance, he would not work in that field again.
“You are constantly in danger from criminal elements who have no regard for their own safety let alone that of the security guards,” he said.
According to national industry statistics, there was a 16 percent increase in cash-in-transit robberies last year, compared with 2012.
The statistics reveal that 28 percent of the incidents occurred in KwaZulu-Natal.