Durban - Heavily armed guards with vehicles were standing off at temples across Durban on Friday night for the annual Ganesha Prayer, a significant Hindu ceremony.
And now armed security guards are increasingly being used at weddings.
This follows two attacks on worshippers in Hindu temples in the past 10 days and the heightened security at places of worship is set continue with Eid Al Adha marked by Muslims next Friday.
An armed gang stormed the Shri Luxmi Narayan Temple in Mobeni Heights on Wednesday night, and worshippers at the Maha Shiv Mandir Temple in Sea Cow Lake were also held up last week.
On Friday, Grey Street Mosque chairperson Abdul Vally Mohammed confirmed extra security was in place for the estimated 4 000 worshippers who would observe Eid Al Adha.
“It’s of grave concern to religious leaders that there is criminal activity in places of worship and we are not free to pray, we cannot pray in peace. Even cemeteries are being attacked. Even in death, we are not left in peace.
“We have beefed up security in the mosque and graveyard,” said Mohammed.
Rodney Moodley, of Inkosi Security, confirmed they had provided more security, free of charge, to temples across Reservoir Hills on Friday night.
“Since the attack, we have received many calls for increased security for the Ganesha Prayer. Whether it’s a temple, mosque or church, my guys are equipped and ready for any situation. We are willing to assist any religious organisation at no cost,” said Moodley.
He added that they would also provide security at three weddings at temples this weekend, at a minimal charge.
Meanwhile, local resident Parthap Haripersadh was at the Shri Luxmi Narayan on Wednesday night when armed men barged into a Sanskrit class.
“This guy came in with a gun with about five or six other guys behind him. All of us were shocked. He told us to keep quiet and said, ‘If you look at us, we will shoot you’,” said Haripersadh.
The temple’s treasurer, Dhiraj Gordhan, was in a different room and on hearing the commotion, pressed the panic button. Armed security was organised for last night’s prayer.
At the nearby Siva Alayam temple in Chatsworth, Bazil Moodley said they would also increase security, adding, “when you are at prayer, you don’t expect to be attacked”.
Ray Maharaj, of the Hillgrove Vishnu Shakti Mandir, said: “We have asked our local SAPS to, in future, patrol the area whenever we have big events on. We have also engaged with private security companies to boost our armed response. We can’t deprive our communities of their rights to practise their beliefs.”
Maharaj said other security measures, such as putting up fences and alarm systems, were being installed, sponsored by temple devotees.
“Some of our devotees will also be monitoring and keeping watch while other devotees continue with prayers,” he said.
Ravi Naidu, of the Mariannhill Shri Siva Soobramoniar Alayam, said they too were in the process of bolstering security.
Vish Singh, public relations officer of the Isipingo Hindi Sabha, said he had been on the phone with several concerned religious organisations.
“It’s not acceptable that we come to a place to pray and we get attacked. We are soft targets. Apart from normal security measures, we have devotees who will stand watch while prayers or other events go on. We pray for peace,” said Singh.
KZN SAPS spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said no arrests had been made in connection with the Luxmi Narayan temple