Bandits storm Durban temple, rob praying devotees
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DURBAN - A Hindu priest continued chanting mantras and blessings on stage while a group of robbers held him and his congregation at gunpoint and took three vehicles in Sea Cow Lake on Monday night.
The congregation of about 50 at the Maha Shiv Mandir on Hippo Road, turned from devotees chanting prayers and being at peace, to utter chaos with victims falling over one another and pleading with the robbers to spare their lives.
Hindu devotees throughout the country are observing Gita Week and the Krishna Janmashtami festival.
A senior member of the temple, who would not be named, said the prayer service was completed but the priest was still on the stage, praying aloud from a script he had in memory and on his iPad which he held.
Devotees were spread throughout the temple while some were leaving.
Two families were outside the premises, walking home, when they were approached by men with guns.
They were robbed and forced to walk back into the temple hall.
A devotee standing at the door when the robbers barged in said the men with balaclavas appeared out of nowhere, forced them inside and said that it was a hold-up, demanding everybody lie down on the floor.
Women were robbed of their handbags, cellphones, necklaces and wedding rings.
“It was a horrible experience,” a woman said.
People were still in shock after the ordeal.
“They said to us not to scream, lift our heads, or place our hands on them. They trampled on us and walked on our backs to get between the aisles and to people,” another devotee said.
An undisclosed amount of cash was stolen from the collection box that would have been used to buy new statues.
The robbers also took three vehicles parked in the yard. A Hyundai i20 and a Toyota Hilux bakkie were recovered in KwaDabeka by a tracking company within minutes of the incident, and a Toyota Avanza is still being sought by police.
A devotee said she calmly asked one of the robbers to leave behind the receipts and temple documents book which were inside her handbag. The robber complied.
While the Daily News was interviewing the victims, a devotee was handed back his driver’s licence and several other credit and store cards which had been found behind a speaker.
This was the first robbery at the temple in 70 years.
Newlands East police are investigating a case of armed robbery.