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Durban - Pensioners were manhandled and shoved to the ground when 12 gunmen made off with money, intended for the needy and the disabled, in a robbery at a grant payout point in Greenwood Park in Durban North on Monday.

The brazen hold-up began when the armed suspects emerged from the queues in the hall, which they had pretended to share with the grant recipients they were about to rob.

Witnesses said the gunmen had stood shoulder to shoulder with people who were oblivious as to what was about to happen.

They then broke rank and revealed their weapons, which were hidden under their clothes.

What made the robbery audacious was that the local police station is less than 400m from the hall.

A municipal worker, who asked that her identity be withheld, was in one of the lines when she saw a man brandishing a gun.

“I tried to run out but he grabbed me,” she said.

The man pushed her back into the queue and ordered everyone to sit down and keep still.

“I saw them push a few people around… they looked nervous,” she said.

The gunmen took cellphones and keys off some people, assaulting those who did not comply.

One of those who was hurt was Babs Naidoo, a school “lollipop man” who was still clutching his high-visibility vest from his morning shift.

He was queuing to collect his son’s disability grant.

“I stood up and a gunman hit me with the butt of his gun on the back of my head. I sat down and then he left me alone,” said Naidoo. “I have a bad headache now.”

According to the municipal worker, the robbery occurred at 9.30am and was over in less than 10 minutes.

Within hours the grant recipients queued again, waiting for more money to be brought to pay them their stipends.

Fidelity Security Group spokesman Francois Bartmann confirmed the incident and said the company was conducting an investigation. Fidelity is responsible for security at the payout.

Police said a case of business robbery had been opened but the amount stolen was not disclosed.

In a separate incident, a drop-safe at a Caltex garage in Bulwer Road in Glenwood was the target of explosive-wielding thugs in the early hours of Monday.

Two suspects were caught on CCTV placing explosives into the key-holes of the safe and detonating the charges.

The blast damaged the canister in the safe that contained the deposited money and they were unable to get their hands on the cash. They fled the scene empty-handed. No one has been arrested. - The Mercury