Durban - A gang of criminals armed with high-calibre weapons has been on a crime spree in KwaZulu-Natal, robbing businesses, cash-in-transit vehicles and people withdrawing large sums of money from banks.
In the past six months, the 12 bandits have been linked to more than 15 robberies in the Phoenix, Tongaat, KwaMashu and Durban North areas.
The Tsunami Gang is known to strike in less than three minutes.
“They are tough guys and strike like a tsunami – unexpected and with great force,” a source said.
“They are very dangerous and should never be approached.”
They are also wanted for a spate of robberies across the province.
Police have created a task team to catch the gang.
“We have a task team in place that is working across our clusters and they have already had some successes,” said KZN police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker.
Police were closing in on the gang and investigations were at an advanced stage, Naicker said.
He said they were working closely with the affected businesses, banks and the South African Banking Risk Information Centre) to bring the gang to book.
“For fear of compromising our operations, we cannot comment further at this stage.”
In Phoenix and KwaMashu, the gang have hit two businesses twice in one month.
Staff at the Whitehouse Pharmacy and a beauty salon at a KwaMashu shopping centre have been left traumatised.
The suspects, who were all casually dressed, have been described as in their twenties and thirties and brandished AK-47s and shotguns.
They are extremely violent and will not hesitate to shoot to kill, said a Durban private investigator, who did not want to be named.
He has been following the gang’s movements.
“They are professionals and do not commit opportunistic crimes. Their robberies are carefully planned and excuted. This is evident in the CCTV footage I have viewed of several robberies the same gang has been involved in.”
The gang is also suspected of committing robberies in Durban Central and hitting cash-in-transit vehicles in the province.
He said the gang members were believed to be from the Maphumalo and Nkandla areas.
“But during their crime sprees, they are known to stay at the KwaMashu Hostel. They have no fixed abode. They commit the robberies, split the spoils and disappear to their rural villages for a few weeks before returning for another hit.”
They were also known as the Knocker Gang.
The private investigator said the gang was known to follow and rob people withdrawing large amounts of money from banks.
“They are jacks of all trades. They are even experienced cash-in-transit robbers. I am investigating about five cases where they have hit the same cash-in-transit company more than five times this year.”
He said the Tsunami Gang only hit businesses and cash-in-transit vehicles.
“Only about four or five of them are the knockers – robbing people leaving banks. They do not risk going out as a gang for the smaller hits.”
In CCTV footage obtained from a robbery at the Whitehouse Pharmacy, the gang carried out the robbery in less than three minutes.
They were caught on camera surveying the pharmacy before entering on the pretext of being customers. Once all the gang members were inside, they produced guns and held staff and customers at gunpoint.
Two kept watch at the door while the others tackled staff at the till and dispensary.
One of the robbers slapped a teller after accusing her of pressing the alarm panic button. The teller fell to the ground as the robber raided the cash register. He then kicked her as she lay on the floor.
The other gang members also attacked customers, robbing them of jewellery and cellphones.
One customer was assaulted as she struggled to remove a ring from her finger.
The private investigator said the gang were seen “casually” leaving the scene in their getaway vehicle.
“These guys are fearless. They will not hesitate to put a bullet into anyone who gets in their way.”
Anyone with information is urged to contact the nearest police station or the police emergency 10111 line.