Mounting armed robberies put business on edge
MASERU – Many businesses in the capital city could be brought to the brink of financial ruin if the spate of armed robberies continues. Usually, shoplifting and theft by customers are the most common crimes committed against businesses but recent heist figures in Maseru could prove otherwise, said Matlakeng Baholo, a business owner trading along Kingsway.
“The impact of crime on the economy is felt when rampant theft causes prices to rise across the board followed by a drop in sales. If one compelled to raise the prices to cover the losses, it makes it harder to compete with other businesses,” he said. According to a report released on Tuesday this week by the Security Unlimited (PTY) Ltd, there is definitely an increase in incidents where larger groups of armed robbers attack different businesses and residential estates, a situation that has left the public questioning the ability of security agencies in general to protect the nation.
It highlighted the increase in criminal incidents largely targeting big stores, filling stations and individuals carrying huge amounts of money to and from the banks. Security estate residents are not spared either, with the security body vowing to reassess all areas of concern and provide possible options to clients to reduce the risk. Currently, the Hills View area has been marked as the most affected in the Maseru urban.
Just in the past three months, the security company recorded over 16 incidents that occurred at business premises and townhomes. On Monday this week at around 1015hrs, an employee of a food outlet was robbed M100 000 at Pioneer Mall while on the way to deposit the money at a bank. The report showed that a unsuspicious person pushing a trolley approached the victim and snatched a bag carrying the money. The perpetrator then got into a getaway vehicle as the victim shouted for help.
Upon receiving the alert, it is heard that one guard tried to close the boom gate in an attempt to stop the getaway vehicle but was shot by a man who had been waiting nearby. The robbers managed to escape while the injured guard later died in hospital.
On different dates in May, June and July the following businesses; Shoprite at LNDC Centre, Puma Filling Stations at Ha Foso, Borokhoaneng and Katlehong were also robbed, including several shops at Khubetsoana Shopping Centre.
Several families were on May 27, between 0630hrs and 0700hrs, held hostage by about 10 intruders who had entered a residential property – Letsie Flats, by jumping over a fence. They tied a guard in the guardhouse and then held several families at gunpoint while robbing them of cash and mobile phones. The thugs reportedly fled upon the arrival of the police and the army.
In another incident on July 30, at the Maseru Industrial Area, a woman queuing at a Standard Lesotho Bank ATM was robbed at gun point cash amounting to M15 400. A witness said the attacker came straight to the victim from across the road and pointed a gun at her. The culprit immediately took her bag and got into a silver unregistered getaway car. “We are under a great attack; it just doesn’t stop. What happened to our peaceful nation?” wondered another frustrated downtown business owner, Teleko Mosoaboli.
Security experts caution businesspeople to face the possibility of robbery at their premises realistically and to give security a high priority. Experts further advised that employees be trained in the latest methods of robbery prevention, which will improve their chances of safety and their ability to provide information that could help in the apprehension of the criminals.
The experts further advise that such preparation can reduce the emotional after-effects of experiencing an armed robbery. “The irresponsible behaviour of sending individuals carrying large sums of money to banks puts many lives in danger. Businesses should utilise registered service providers to move their cash,” the Security Unlimited report also recommended.