PICS & VIDEO: ’It’s stripped to the walls’ - Owner says he watched helplessly as looters stripped Pinetown bike shop
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DURBAN - A Pinetown business owner said he watched helplessly as looters destroyed his business on Tuesday and made off with motorcycles worth R900 000, parts and other items.
Rodney van Rooyen, 34, the owner of The Bike Shack in Pinetown, said his business was gone. He said that he would not be able to keep his business running.
“Its stripped to the walls. I can’t just walk back into my shop and continue business. What they don't realise is that my direct ability to create an income for myself and my family is gone.”
Describing what happened, the small business owner said his business alarm went off on Tuesday morning, and seconds later he received a call that the motorcycles from his shop were being wheeled down the road by looters.
He said that on his way to the shop, he messaged friends to come and help him.
“I was the third vehicle down there and I had to swerve through the looters in the road, they were actually riding the bikes pass me, those that could be ridden.”
Van Rooyen said he would never forget the expression on the looters’ faces as they took his motorbikes.
“I cant get it out of my head seeing how much joy there was, they were happy, they were laughing about it. I was standing there pleading, please please leave my stuff, this is my life, and they just looked past me and laughed.”
As he got closer to his business, van Rooyen said three bikes, not in operation, were being pushed along the road, his second vehicle parked at the shop was still on fire, the garage door was pushed up and the shops’ glass doors were broken.
“The guys were just pulling out everything they could.”
He said two of his friends yelled at them to go away, but they just dropped the bikes they had and went for other ones.
Van Rooyen said they could not do much because there were four of them in three vehicles, with thousands of people in the area looting distribution centres.
“There was almost a slight stand-off, but I had to let them take stuff so that we could get in to remove what we could.”
He said that in total, 42 motorcycles were taken, 12 were saved and 20% of his and a mechanic’s tools were also saved.
Van Rooyen further explained that his friends came across looters selling his bikes for R5 000, and they pulled the bikes off the looters’ van. He said they were forced to pay the thieves up to R800 to let them take the bikes.
Van Rooyen, who will be turning 35 in a few days, said at the moment he does not believe that his business can recover.
He said he was a about a week away from getting four investors to buy into his business after over three years of “blood, sweat and tears,” to build his business up into a success.
“Its been hard, we scraped everything we could to buy the place, we took loans, and to pay that back we sold our own stuff.
“I've sacrificed everything, I nearly lost my family three times with the amount of work I was doing. I was at work until 9pm at night, sometimes until 1am, two or three times a week … this has been three years of building, and then Covid-19 hit us and destroyed my business from a financial point.”
He said the business had survived Covid-19 purely by going into debt.
“As it stands, my credit card and my personal overdraft are both maxed out, and by the end of this month will be in the red because I have no income.”
To keep paying staff and rent to get through Covid-19, I did not pay myself, he said.
“I bled in that shop, I sat crying in my car knowing that I couldn't get out because tomorrow I couldn't pay school fees.”
He said what he could not understand was why the looters were taking things they could not use.
“They’ve taken everything off my shelves, all the parts – what are they going to do with a set of motorbike grips? I brought in 10 to 15 thousand rands worth of stock to put on my walls, and that’s all gone.”