Three brazen robbers who entered the Shoprite at Montclair outside Durban were shot and killed by police shortly after they killed the store manager and threw his body out of the shop.
The incident happened after 3pm yesterday.
The robbers, armed with pistols, entered the store and shot the manager in full view of staff and shoppers.
After disposing of the body outside the store, the men held several shoppers and staff hostage.
One woman staffer suffered a heart attack, another was pistol- whipped and two others fainted and had to be treated for shock later.
According to staff, the men planned to rob the store, its workers and shoppers.
Paramedics described the scene as "terrifying". Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha was among the first to arrive there.
"The police were outside monitoring the situation. We found the manager with three gunshot wounds to the chest. We tried to resuscitate him but he was dead.
"There were three gunmen holding about 30 people hostage. Detectives stormed the store. We heard gunshots and were called in to examine the suspects who were all dead."
Botha said the hostages and 15 female staff were later counselled.
"It was tense and those inside the store were terrified," he said.
The survivorswere still shocked to tell what really happened and all declined to speak to the media.
Police spokesperson Vincent Mdunge confirmed that three suspects were shot dead.
At the time of going to press, the names of the dead suspects and the store manager were still being withheld until their next of kin were informed.
Mdunge said the suspects had been linked to other robberies in the province.
"Their motive was robbery. The money that the robbers had already taken from the shop was recovered at the scene," he said.
A case of murder has been opened.