ATM bombing FEAR

Frank Maponya

The community of Matoks village in Botlokwa, near Polokwane, is terrified of ever using an automatic teller machine (ATM) again.

This follows the bombing of three ATMs early yesterday morning.

A group of armed men arrived at the local petrol station and held two petrol attendants up at gunpoint before forcing them to lie down in a nearby rest room.

The robbers then bombed the ATMs before fleeing in five cars with an undisclosed, but it is believed substantial, amount of cash.

Sowetan yesterday visited the scene and found villagers still reeling from the shock of the ATM bombing.

Two of the machines belonged to Standard Bank and the third to Nedbank.

"It is bad enough for most of our villagers but it is worse for the elderly, who depend on the machines to draw their government grants," said community leader Vusi Ramusi.

He said villagers would now have to travel to town, more than 70km away, when they needed to do transactions.

According to Ramusi a group of about nine men approached the two attendants pretending to want to buy petrol early yesterday morning. They pointed firearms at the attendants before they tied them up and ordered them to lie on the floor in the rest room.

The hapless attendants were only discovered when the sleeping community was woken up by the loud bangs when the machines exploded.

"By then the assailants had fled, leaving the attendants inside the toilets," said Ramusi.

It appeared that a detonator was used to blow up the money dispensing machines.

"As a result of the explosions we all live in fear, not knowing when the next attack will be wherever we use an ATM. The police have to act quickly to arrest the culprits before they strike again and someone is killed," he said.

Provincial police spokesman Superintendent Ronel Otto, said yesterday they had launched a hunt for the culprits.

She said it was not yet clear how much money was stolen from the machines.

No one was injured.