Kingdom Mabuza and Katlego Moeng
In the last 36 hours, gangs of marauding armed robbers have come unstuck as they have come up against a more organised SAPS - with more fire power.
Since Sunday, police have foiled four robberies, leaving several gunmen dead and their colleagues in police custody.
lEleven armed suspects ran out of luck when they tried to hit a furniture retailer in Woodmead, north of Johannesburg, yesterday afternoon.
The police received a tip-off earlier in the day. The organised crime unit, assisted by the crime intelligence unit, lay in wait for the alleged robbers. The alleged rthugs arrived around 1pm and entered the furniture shop.
The alleged robbers started shooting at the police when they confronted them. Tthe police who returned fire and one of the robbers was shot dead inside the Safumart furniture shop while his alleged a second robber died on his way to hospital.
Six of other men were arrested while three escaped.
Police found two sets of police uniforms inside a combi which they believe was to be used as the getaway vehicle.
The combi and another sedan were parked a few metres from the crime scene.
National police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao said; "We received information about the robbery and the police were waiting for them when they arrived. When the men were confronted by police they started shooting and police returned the fire," he said.
Adriao however declined to reveal how the men were traced or where the tip-off came from.
He said one of the vehicles used by the robbers was hijacked in Boksburg on December 9.
Police confiscated an R5 rifle, an AK-47 and two pistols.
lIn another incident, eight armed robbers were stopped in their tracks by police at Irene Dairy near Pretoria yesterday.
"We received information and acted on it. We ambushed them at 8am as they were making their way to the dairy,'' said Adriao.
Adriao said six men were arrested and two escaped.
lSapa reports that an armed robber was shot dead and his 12 heavily armed accomplices arrested in Ulundi in the early hours of yesterday morning, according to KwaZulu-Natal police.
"One of the employees of Shoprite Checkers in Ulundi had been colluding with these criminals and they planned a massive armed robbery before Christmas," said Superintendent Vincent Mdunge.
The members of the gang were from Gauteng, Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal.
They struck after midnight and held staff at gunpoint. The store was open due to renovations and employees were preparing to open its doors at mid-morning yesterday.
"The gang members were armed with firearms, hammers and screwdrivers. They took valuables, including cellphones from the staffers - and then proceeded to break [open] the safe."
While busy breaking into the safe, a staffer still in possession of his cellphone alerted police. Ulundi police arrived while the robbery was still in progress.
"There was a crossfire between the thugs and police and one suspect was shot dead."
Twelve others were arrested at the scene. All the stolen items and the weapons were recovered. Nobody else was injured.
Mdunge said it was a well-planned operation. The alleged mastermind was the employee who had divulged critical information to the gang.
"He disseminated information about the safe, who held the keys and which staffers had what and just about everything."
The gang was due to appear in the Ulundi magistrate's court today to face charges of attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.
Police said they suspected the alleged robbers were linked to other crimes.
Mdunge warned business owners to be extremely cautious over the festive period and to ensure that their employees were properly screened before being hired.
lOn Sunday police foiled a robbery in Long Meadow in Edenvale.
Seven alleged gang members were arrested after they accidentally locked themselves in a cash-in-transit vehicle after a freeway shootout.
Police and armed guards from the Protea Coin Group, using an armoured vehicle and a helicopter belonging to the security company, cornered the robbers after a shootout while they were trying to flee onto the nearby N3 highway.
All seven robbers were arrested.