Cape Town -140902. De Waal Drive - A trolly and fake graves seen next to De Waal Drive this with the word "#Rip" was slowing down traffic this morring. PICTURE: NICO VAN BLERK

Cape town - Who killed the shopping trolley? On Tuesday Cape Town was gripped by an unusual murder mystery when commuters first spotted little white roadside graves erected in memory of the unassuming cart.

In some places, such as De Waal Drive, banners with “#RIPTROLLEY” printed on a white background advertised its death. In others, a mourning cart was spotted sporting a forlorn look with only flowers and tombstones for company.

The carts that had survived this apparent apocalypse were reduced to walking (rolling) the streets, holding up signs and begging for money.

Covered in a blanket, another desperately sad trolley held a sheet of cardboard which read: “Unable to prostitute, afraid to steal, alone and destitute, can’t afford a meal.”

The strange sightings weren’t just limited to Cape Town, with many more unhappy trolleys popping up in Joburg.

But late in the afternoon, the culprit was finally revealed as Takealot, the local online retailer.

In a three-minute Youtube clip shot as a mock news segment, an anchor explained the fate that had befallen South Africa’s unhappy shopping carts.

“Shopping trolleys all over the country were unexpectedly retrenched, a few of the more destitute cases in Joburg and Cape Town have resulted in begging,” the clip cuts to footage of the homeless carts, “and even their demise.”

Appearing in the video, Craig Johnson, named as a representative for the company, says: “First off here at Takealot we would like to send out our condolences to all of those affected by on Tuesday’s tragic events.

“In cases like these we can’t point fingers at anyone, anyone but ourselves.”

He says that with the advent of online shopping, traditional supermarket runs were coming to end.

“It’s a wonder there are any real shops open any more,” he adds.

He encourages viewers to adopt a jobless trolley just like Susie, who is shown having a tea party with a mini-trolley, and Oom Jan, who has turned his shopping cart into a portable braai.

Before the video hit the internet, social media was buzzing with theories on who could be behind the strange installations. Many had donned their tin foil hats, with some even suggesting it was a protest against trolley theft. But most had already sussed it out, correctly guessing that it was part of a guerrilla marketing campaign.

“This smells of Takealot,” said one user before the video was revealed.

After the video was linked to users by the retailer’s Twitter account, one user wrote: “You had us stumped Takealot, fantastic work! I’m going to adopt a trolley.”

The campaign apparently reached around 110 000 people, according to a trend analysis. And although most users saw it as a success, it received mixed reactions.

“#riptrolley is in really poor taste considering the pop-up grave idea was done just a few weeks ago for Marikana,” tweeted @stetsonchick.

“I think it’s in poor taste, mocking roadside graves,” chipped in @StuBuSA

“Not sure if these #riptrolley headstones are a good idea on the side of the road. It’s a little gloomy,” added another user.

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Cape Argus