A spate of kidnappings and robberies at Maponya Mall in Soweto, targeting the elderly has caused panic among the aged shoppers who are feeling unsafe.
Sources at the mall have alleged that so far, they have identified four elderly victims of a gang consisting of about three women and a man, from security camera footage at the mall.
A 79-year-old woman Elisa Diale, from Molapo in Soweto became the latest victim of the gang that allegedly targets women who have been to the bank to withdraw cash. The gang’s modus operandi is to pretend to be giving out food vouchers to the elderly, kidnap them and rob them of their money and belongings.
Two weeks ago the woman was allegedly robbed of R7 000 and her cellphone, bank cards and a wedding ring after three women and a man kidnapped her at Maponya Mall. They told Diale to get into their car saying they were going to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital to collect food parcels.
Diale who was travelling with her two grandchildren was alone at the time. She said she goes to the mall at end of the month to pay her bills. “On my Nedbank account, I make transfers and on my Standard Bank account, I make withdrawals to pay off accounts. On Friday, the 4th I withdrew R10 000 from my account and paid R3 000 to my credit card, leaving R7 000 on me,” she said.
As Diale walked out of the mall, a woman appeared near the Home Affairs offices and started chatting and complimented her on her skirt, saying “it looked pretty”.
“I told her it’s just an old skirt, paying no attention to her. She then pointed to another woman standing a few metres from us and told me that she would like to speak to me. She told me today was my lucky day as they are giving away Christmas grocery vouchers to elderly women like myself. I didn’t even see this voucher,” she said.
The duo asked Diale for the name of her bank and whether she had just withdrawn money. “They asked for my phone, saying they wanted to call their office to let them know they were on their way with me. I asked them where their offices were and they said near Bara Mall. I told them I was not alone and I had to let my grandchildren know that I am now making my way to Bara. They told me it would only take a few minutes and they would bring me back,” she said.
Diale got into a white Polo Vivo with no registration plates. She sat in the back seat with two women. Another woman was in the front seat and a man was at the wheel.
“I was told I needed to give my banking details and then walked to a white polo parked a few metres and found another woman in the car who I thought was also a recipient of the grocery voucher,” she said.
They left Maponya Mall but drove in the opposite direction of the Bara Mall. As they were on the Old Potchefstroom road, Diale realised something was wrong. When she asked where they were going, she was told they were avoiding the roadworks ahead.
”I began to feel scared. I began to feel confused about what was going on. I noticed we were driving deeper into the fields which are secluded. The car stopped in the bushes and that’s when they asked me to give them my money and my belongings.”
Diale was searched and R7 000 was found in her purse and taken together with her belongings. They left her in the bushes, unharmed. A Good Samaritan then offered to take her back to Maponya Mall where her grandchildren were waiting and worried about her.
By the time she got back to Maponya Mall, the assailants had already made withdrawals worth R20 000 from her account. Gauteng police spokesperson, Lieutenant Kay Makhubela, said a case of kidnapping and robbery had been opened following the incident.
“An investigation into the case is underway. No arrests have been made yet,” said Makhubela. He added that while they were not in a position to confirm “if it is indeed a group of three women and a young man, we have heard reports that the operation is done by three women and a young man.”