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Bubble gum chewing hero saves the day

Published Nov 21, 2021


A bubble gum chewing shopper fed-up with Durban’s rising crime levels, played a pivotal role in apprehending an armed robbery suspect who was eventually sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment this week.

The accused Nhlakanipho Hadebe and two other accomplices robbed a store in uMbilo in September 2020.

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Hadebe was arrested on the day of the incident and was convicted for two counts of robbery at the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

The two other suspects are still at large.

Magistrate Sophie Reddy commended Faizal Hoomer, the shopper whose taste for bubble gum after a hearty meal inadvertently drew him to a shop that he often frequented on uMbilo’s Magwaza Maphalala (formerly Gale) Street.

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Hoomer was unaware that a robbery was in progress when he walked in.

As the robbers began to leave the store, Hoomer swung into action.

He kept his eye on Hadebe, who casually strolled out with a coke from the shop.

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Hoomer gave chase in his car and bumped Hadebe over as he tried to cross Sydney Road and then pinned him to the ground when he tried to flee again.

Police eventually arrested Hadebe.

On why he pursued an armed robbery suspect, Hoomer said a stand needed to be taken against criminals.

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“I was also upset that my wife was held-up by pickpockets in Durban, six months before the uMbilo incident.

“Thereafter, my niece was robbed near my flat in the city centre,” he said.

Hoomer said those incidents played on his mind and caused him to react.

On the day in question, a Friday, Hoomer, a Muslim, had returned from a prayer session and had a meal with his friend.

His craving for bubble gum led him to the uMbilo store owned by Akramul Alam.

“I walked in where the gum was kept. I didn’t realise there was a robbery in progress.

“I noticed one of the robbers had emptied the entire takings from the cash register into a packet,” he said.

Hoomer thought the man was a new employee.

“I asked the guy what he was doing,” he said.

That’s when Hadebe, who had a gun, asked him to move to the back of the shop.

“They shoved me onto the floor with the others,” Hoomer said.

Alam, his brother and two female employees were also held at the back.

Hoomer said he complied but he was not afraid, he kept his head up and watched the movements of the robbers.

The robbers searched his pockets and asked for his phone.

One of the men assaulted him on his head and kicked him before taking the phone.

Hoomer recalled the entire incident lasted about two minutes during which time the robbers helped themselves to goods in the store.

According to the charge sheet, they took R17 000, a cell phone, and the hard drive from a video recorder capturing CCTV footage in the store, cigarettes, airtime machine and keys.

“The last guy (Hadebe), who had the gun, seemed to be the bravest. He casually opened a coke as he exited,” he said

Hoomer said he immediately got to his feet and chased after Hadebe.

“I ran to the side street, where my friend was off-loading his truck,” he said.

With Hadebe ahead of him, Hoomer signalled to his friend that he was a robber.

Hadebe noticed this and began to flee on foot, Hoomer gave chase in his car before ramming into him on Sydney Road.

During his fall, Hadebe’s gun and the hard drive fell, and he tried to slip away once again. But Hoomer responded aggressively.

All the commotion on Sydney Road was witnessed by an off-duty policeman, who got assistance and effected Hadebe’s arrest.

Hadebe was taken back to the shop by the policemen where the owner confirmed ownership of the hard drive and his brother identified him as one of the robbers.

During the court proceedings, Hoomer said it became necessary for him to react with aggression as Hadebe was trying to make another getaway.

“I was very frustrated,” Hoomer said.

In response, Hadebe’s version in court was that he was walking casually when he was knocked by the car and was unconscious thereafter.

State prosecutor Surekha Marimuth refuted Hadebe’s version.

The fact that Hadebe was caught and the witness (Hoomer) never lost sight of him, Marimuthu said his version was “ludicrous”.

She argued that police would not have moved him from the scene if he had sustained serious injuries because they would have been held responsible if his supposed condition worsened.

Magistrate Reddy concurred.

She said the accused acted with premeditation because they had the foresight to remove the hard drive, Hadebe stuck to his version in spite of the strong evidence against him and showed no remorse.