Armed gang ambushes cigarette delivery van

An armed gang stole R150 000 worth of cigarettes during a heist in Sarepta.

About 12 armed men leapt from two Toyota Quantum taxis and held up a guarded van carrying R150 000 worth of cigarettes in Kuils River last week.

The gang closed in on the British American Tobacco-owned (BAT) panel van on the doorstep of the Sarepta Supermarket, in Gertrude Street, at about 9am on Thursday March 17.

Minutes after the robbery, security guards and the witnesses can be seen milling about in a video, where one Xhosa-speaking security guard can be heard saying: “I didn’t see the second taxi initially. It passed us by and stood a few metres away.”

The video was shot by a witness who wanted to remain anonymous.

The cigarette van was being shadowed by security guards in two separate vehicles, according to witnesses.

In the midst of the robbery, the gang car-jacked a Sarepta man, according to a law enforcement source and four witnesses.

They told Northern News that a third taxi acted as a lookout some distance from the scene.

Kuils River station commander Colonel JT Naidoo said: “There was a heist on Thursday morning, but I don’t have all the details. Two suspects have been arrested.”

He referred further queries to senior police officials in Kuils River. A Colonel Pretorius said 10 boxes had been stolen, each worth about R15 000.

BAT did not respond to emailed queries and a follow-up call by the time of publication.

Ronnie Wazinika, who runs a car wash near the scene of the heist, said the robbers, some armed with AK47s, had surrounded the panel van.

“I was going to the shop to get change for a customer, but as soon as I saw what was going on, I turned away. I didn’t see how many boxes were taken.”

A woman, who works at a nearby shop and who identified herself only as Alice, said: “This happened very near to the shop. One of them came towards the shop and shouted at me to move.”

At this point, the panel van had been reversing to offload cigarettes at the supermarket. The supermarket has a camera with a view of the scene, but the owner said it had stopped working during a robbery last year.

A law enforcement source also described the guns as AK47s. “Both the driver and the assistant had guns to their heads and there was nothing the guards could do,” the source said.

One of the witnesses also said the men held up the van driver and his assistant, and “the two G4S guards could not do anything”, despite the two guards’ vehicles double-parking the cigarette van from either side.

The man who was car-jacked did not want to be named but said: “They stole the car, but they messed it up. They could not drive it because it’s an old Golf MK1. Only I could drive it.”

He said the car was recovered hours later on Nooiensfontein Road near the petrol station – almost a kilometre from the crime scene.

A G4S spokesperson said no one was injured in the robbery.