Durban - A vegetable thief got more than he bargained for when he nicked several bags of potatoes from a Phoenix mosque and made his getaway through an adjoining property, belonging to a security boss.

The neighbour, who requested anonymity, said he was getting ready for church on Sunday morning when he heard suspicious sounds in his yard.

“I looked out my bathroom window and saw two bags of potatoes in my yard.

“After a short while, another one came flying over the fence,” he said.

That is when he spotted two men at the mosque on the other side of the fence.

Realising that he was witnessing the commission of a crime, he said his instincts kicked in and he took his firearm and went to confront them.

But when he got out of his front door, one of the men had jumped over the fence and was in his yard.

“As soon as he saw me, he charged at me with an iron rod which looked like a spear,” the security company manager said. Realising his opponent was no small fry he drew his gun, fearing for his safety and that of his two young sons inside the house.

“I shot twice. The guy fell on the ground, but immediately got up and ran off,” he said. “I don’t think he was wounded.”

He said his neighbours, alerted by the shots, came out of their homes and into the streets. Some of them reported having seen the other suspect also running off.

He then alerted police and the imam of the mosque.

Maulana Kazi of the Madrasah Umar Farooq Mosque said the suspects had broken into the kitchen, making off with potatoes meant for the needy. The vegetables had been donated for a twice-weekly feeding scheme, part of their poverty alleviation programme.

Kazi said he was disappointed by the theft. He said the mosque gates were always open so that people could come and pray at any time.

Groceries had been stocked up for cooking on Monday to feed needy people along the Durban beachfront, Addington Hospital and Prince Street.

Said the neighbour: “How can these guys stoop so low as to steal food meant for the needy? If they were hungry they would have taken one bag.

“But in my yard they had to abandon the three. Who knows what the other one made off with.”

The bags of spuds were returned. Kazi said the mosque would continue to keep its gates open, especially in this holy month of Ramadaan.

Daily News