Business owners at mercy of criminals

More than business owners on Umgeni Road are operating in fear of their lives, as brazen armed robbers target their shops

Rajinder Singh was shot in the stomach during an armed robbery. Picture: Boitumelo Pakkies.

Published Feb 24, 2024

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More than 50 business owners on Umgeni Road are living in fear of brazen armed robbers targeting their shops.

They are calling for more police visibility after one of the business owners was shot in the stomach during a recent armed robbery.

The victim, Rajinder Singh, 43, the owner of Khayalami Home Goods Store, said this was the third armed robbery at one of his four shops in recent months. This was in addition to the several burglaries and shoplifting incidents, reported over the past few months.

Singh said he was sitting in his shop with a friend, when an armed man entered at about 6:30pm.

“I was about to close up shop for the day, when he entered and went up to one of my employees. He was asking her about prices, then suddenly pulled out a firearm. On seeing this, I stood up and he turned towards me, firing a shot. I remember feeling a sharp pain to my side and falling to the ground.

“He then approached me and demanded I give him money. I told him I didn't have any money. He repeatedly said, ‘give me your (cell)phone, give me money, I will kill you’. He put his hands inside my pockets and took my cellphone and money. He also took my friends cellphone and then ran out the shop,” he said.

Singh said the armed robber was seen fleeing in a vehicle - with three other occupants.

“As he ran out the shop, another business owner ran towards him, but he pointed the gun at him and ran across the road to the waiting car. I was then taken to hospital by some of the business owners.

“It has been a very difficult time as I have only just started to recover, however, I am still in a lot of pain. The bullet entered through the right side of my stomach, and exited through my back. The doctors said I was lucky to be alive, as the bullet just missed my vital organs,” he said.

Singh said he had been in the area for the past 15 years - but the crime had only increased in the past two years.

“We never had such a high number of robberies or burglaries, and shoplifting was rare. Now, we have people just running into the shop and grabbing things, or stealing the displays.

“We cannot afford to have security - because sales have slowed down due to customers being too afraid to come into the area, as there have been several robberies and bag-snatching incidents. I pay a man to stand and watch the shop - but he is not armed, and is defenceless in an armed robbery.

“We also found out that to hire a private security - with a car and guards stationed in the road, would cost between R50 000 to R60 000 per month. We cannot afford that,” he said.

The father of two said he had considered closing the shop but had a family and staff who relied on him.

“I have my children to think about, as well as over 15 staff - who have children to care for and homes to run. What will happen to them? We need the police to tackle the crime in the area, before someone loses their life,” he said.

Qaisar Shahzad, had to install metal doors after his shop was broken into and all goods were stolen.

Faryad Yaquab, who works at Jacks Discount Store, spoke of an incident where his uncle, who owns the shop, was tied-up, assaulted and robbed twice over the past six months.

“These criminals don’t care if they kill us. We are at their mercy. When my uncle opened this shop about five years ago, the crime was not as bad, but now, it is out of control. We are afraid to come to the shop and have to constantly watch our backs,” he said.

The father of three, said he made a little money which helped him support his family back home in Pakistan.

“When I came to South Africa about 10 years ago, I hoped for a better life, for myself and my family. But now, if something were to happen to me, who would care for my family? We are in a very difficult situation - do we stay, or do we leave?”

Qaisar Shahzad, the owner of Ahmed’s Blanket Zone, said he was still picking up the pieces after his shop was ‘cleaned-out’ during a burglary about a year ago.

He said all that was left - were the metal shelves.

“They took all of my goods from the blankets to the homeware, as well as cellphones and tools - which I used to run a secondary business from the shop. I had received a call in the early hours of the morning that my shop had been broken into. When I arrived, there was nothing left - but the shelves.

“I lost more than R150 000 worth of goods. I have had to purchase goods on credit so that I can rebuild, but it will take a very long time till I see any profits as I have to pay-off my debt,” he said.

Shahzad said he had installed metal doors - along with a roller door to increase security around his shop.

Police did not comment at the time of going to print.

According to the SAPS crime statistics for the third quarter of the 2023/2024 financial year (October 2023 - December 2023), released on Friday, there were 733 robberies at non-residential premises reported in KwaZulu-Natal(KZN).

There were also 2 214 burglaries at non-residential premises and 2 217 shoplifting incidents reported over the three-month period.

THE POST

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