It’s 30 minutes before the Spar in Olivenhoutbosch closes. Five children loiter around the door. A man with a toddler on his arm reads the noticeboard.
A woman walks in, clutching her daughter’s hand. Others leave.
Then the robbers arrive. Six in a row.
This CCTV camera footage from last month’s robbery was released by the police after the latest incident on Saturday when 15 men – one wielding an AK-47 – held up the Spar in Fairlands.
The Olivenhoutbosch Spar camera shows the five men enter. One, with a white knitted cap, waits at the door.
More customers leave. Others enter. Thirty seconds pass.
Then the robber in the cap whips out his handgun. He bangs on the manager’s desk just inside the door to the store.
The robbery has begun.
Some children scatter. A customer who tries to escape is pushed to the ground and assaulted.
The robber in the knitted cap then forces children who are outside, and the man with the toddler at the noticeboard, to enter the store. They lie at the door.
Inside the store, CCTV cameras have picked up the men.
Two have gone to the admin office. Two have gone into the store. One stays near the front.
All of a sudden, customers and cashiers drop to the floor.
The men flock to the tills.
A man wearing a white shirt and blue jeans is the leader.
Walking around the store, he carries a gun in his right hand as he frisks the customers. He checks whether his colleagues have taken all the money.
A man in blue pants pulls a teller from the floor, forcing her to open the till. He stuffs the money into his pocket as she disappears under the counter.
Another man, wearing an orange top, forces a teller to open the till. She trembles.
He dumps the money into a Spar carrier bag and goes to the cigarette counter.
He jumps it, empties the till and walks out. The others walk out, one by one.
The leader comes to the counter, points his gun at the cashier and walks out.
The entire ordeal lasts four minutes.
Next door, at the Spar’s liquor outlet, Tops, a similar scene is being playing out at the same time.
Four men have forced the owner onto the ground.
One frisks him. The other pistol-whips him. Another kicks him. They empty the till near the door. They search the till area.
One jumps over the till into the shop, taking several bottles of alcohol before running off.
Another comes in, takes the change and fills his pocket before leaving.
The owner meanwhile lies motionless on the floor, fearing for his life.
Eventually everyone leaves.
These two robberies, which happened on July 8 at the Olivenhoutbosch Spar and Tops, are just one of eight grocery store robberies that have taken place across Joburg since June 27.
Last Monday, at 7pm, the Cornwill Hill Pick n Pay and its adjacent bottle store was robbed by 24 armed men. They cleared the Nedbank ATM in the store and fired eight random shots. They stole the personal belongings of customers and cashiers, and fled.
On July 31, eight men robbed the Spar in Verwoerd Park, Alberton. One customer was shot.
The Pick n Pay in Bramley, the Spar in Midrand and a shop in Boksburg North have also been robbed.
At the end of May, The Star reported on eight armed men who stormed three shops at the Olivedale Shopping Centre: the Pick n Pay, the pharmacy and a liquor store.
They held up the tellers and robbed customers of cellphones, wallets and jewellery.
Police sources say there have been similarities in the various incidents, which are becoming more frequent.
Provincial police spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Tshisikhawe Ndou said it was still unclear if it was one syndicate or more attacking the malls.
Ndou revealed that several incidents had been reported in the province. The suspects target shopping centres and, specifically, grocery supermarkets. This takes place towards closing times.
“The incidents are sporadic around the province. Therefore, at this stage there is no information to suggest that only one group or a syndicate is involved. The suspects also drive in different makes of motor vehicles each time.” - The Star