Fifteen minutes was all a group of seven bombers needed to plant explosives around an ATM, wait for the blast, fill their bags with cash and make a clean getaway.
This is how the attack in KTC near Gugulethu unfolded.
It was the first of four ATM bombings in the Western Cape in nine days. Each took place between 3.10am and 4.10am.
On Monday, January 30, surveillance footage shows seven men, each holding a bag, approaching an ATM attached to a Spar wall. The group jumps over the gate at 3.55am. The explosive device is planted and they stand back.
After a bang the seven fill their bags and leave the same way they came in by 4.10am.
Manager of Spar KTC Jeff Skosana said the robbers didn’t get all the money. One of them cut themselves on the metal shards on the machine.
The next bombing took place the following day at the Kwikspar at Tyger Manor Centre in Bellville.
Store owner Paul Goncalves said the CCTV footage seems to have frozen at the time of the 4am attack.
A neighbouring shop owner noticed at 5am that the ATM had been forced open. There was still money left behind inside.
On Friday, February 3, at 3.10am, bombers struck an ATM on the corner of Milton Road and Vasco Boulevard in Goodwood. A witness said he heard the blast, rushed outside and saw three men fiddling with the ATM. When the bombers saw the man, they fled in a white car.
Tuesday morning, three men with rifles targeted an ATM attached to the outside of a bank in Goodwood Mall. Albert de Jager, centre manager, said the men chased the unarmed night security guard away from the ATM. The traumatised guard managed to call his control room and alert police. In the minutes they took to respond, the men blew up two ATMs, took the cash and fled in a blue BMW.
Experts say they believe a crime syndicate is probably behind the spate of ATM bombings.
Between January 1 and February 7 last year one incident was recorded in the province, said SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric).
Police statistics show 399 ATM bombings for the 2010/11 financial year in SA. Hardest hit were Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer November Filander said they were concerned about the trend.
The investigation was at an early stage and it was too soon to say what type of explosives had been used, or whether the attacks were linked.
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said the bombings were executed with “military precision”.
“There’s an element of sophistication and professionalism.”
He said it raised the question of whether the explosives were provided by, or stolen from, the police or military, and whether the robbers had police or military training.
Johan Burger, Institute of Security Studies (ISS) crime expert, said industrial explosives were usually used in the blasts. Most of these originated from mines.
Burger was convinced the bombings were the work of a syndicate because it would not be easy for one person.
These attacks needed good organisation, planning, access to money and industrial explosives, he said.
They would need a trained specialist who knew how to handle explosives and how much to use. The blast must be powerful enough to open the machine, but not destroy the cash, he explained.
Obtaining industrial explosives was supposed to be extremely difficult since it was governed by strict controls, said Burger.
While it was difficult to say who was behind the attacks, Burger said it was probable that a syndicate had changed focus, or one had moved from areas such as Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, was also convinced a syndicate was to blame, based on the resources needed to commit the crime. “The only way to solve this is through crime intelligence,” he said.
Provincial Community Police Forum spokesman Faisal Abrams said local police should implement steps taken elsewhere in SA to stem the attacks.
Kalyani Pillay, Sabric chief executive, said the organisation was working with police and other industry stakeholders.
The damage to a bombed ATM costs between R50 000 and R300 000, she said