Popular hangout damaged by Midrand blast

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Copy of ST main Building bombing 636.JPG THE STAR Police closed the street as they investigated a collapsed building near the Midrand taxi rank. There is speculation that it was an ATM bombing attempt. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

Johannesburg - A popular chesa nyama in Midrand was one of the shops that was extensively damaged after a blast in the area left two people injured.

The two-storey Ipitombi butchery and tavern and a shop in the building collapsed after the explosion at about 2am on Monday.

Two homeless people who had taken shelter in the structure, a small, family-owned building, were injured.

The owner, Ozzi Bentcourt, said the business had been running for 17 years. He did not know why anyone would want to sabotage the building, which housed various businesses.

“Everyone knows us. This was a hangout place for taxi drivers and hawkers – we even had a clinic.”

He said the business was well liked by the community, and the explosion would leave a number of people unemployed.

“We are looking at 50 or 60 people who lost their jobs. To rebuild it will take a year, and we are looking at a business that was worth R10 million.”

Kwame Mensah, a hair salon owner, said a customer called him to inform him about the explosion.

“We were supposed to meet at 7.30. He called me and told me my shop is f****d up,” he said.

Three other tenants at the scene said they were not covered by insurance and had no other way of getting their shop contents back.

Cornelius Okwelogu said his shop provided him with his only income, which went towards supporting his wife and three children. He had left R2 000 in the safe, but was more concerned about the produce – including yams, beans and fish – that was damaged.

“When you signing a lease, you just sign and don’t read. I import Nigerian food... I won’t be able to replace those things immediately. Real hardship awaits us.”

Tenants said they believed something other than an ATM robbery had resulted in the explosion. “If it was an ATM (bombing), the damage wouldn’t be this big. We are confused at what’s happening,” said Mensah.

Police could not confirm if the explosion was as a result of an ATM bombing. The ATM was situated outside.

The bomb squad was still gathering evidence on Monday afternoon.

Sergeant Richard Balili said the premises were not safe. “Of all the scenes I have attended, I have never seen anything like this.”

No arrests had been made.

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