Bank clients feel the pinch of ATM blasts

Getrude Makhafola, Frank Maponya and Riot Hlatshwayo

Getrude Makhafola, Frank Maponya and Riot Hlatshwayo

While banks are faced with huge replacement costs as a result of the increasing number of ATM bombings across the country, customers are also feeling the inconvenience.

Clients say they now have to travel distances to gain access to ATMs in cities and shopping centres because of marauding armed gangs who blast the machines to smithereens in their wake.

More than 300 ATMs have been bombed this year. And it is those whom the machines were meant to help out, especially in rural areas and townships, who suffer the consequences of the actions of these criminals.

In Botlokwa, near Polokwane in Limpopo, four ATMs were bombed in the space of four months.

This has left about 85000 people from 10 villages with only one ATM.

"The bombing is an inconvenience to pensioners who depended on the machines to draw their grants," said community leader Vusi Ramusi.

"Now they are forced to fork out R19 for a taxi to travel more than 70km to Polokwane to draw money."

In Soweto an ATM, which was situated next to the entrance of a hardware store in Dobsonville, was bombed earlier this year.

"Customers come here with the intention of drawing cash and shopping, but have been disappointed recently because the ATM is no longer there," said an employee at the hardware store.

He said it got worse when the credit or debit card payment system in the shop went off-line.

Maphodi Mofokeng, who lives across the street from the shop, said she used to have it easy by just crossing the street to use the ATM instead of catching a taxi to the shopping centre.

"Even in the morning I could dash to the machine to draw cash for my children before they left for school. I guess we will have to get used to the situation now," said Mofokeng.

At a filling station in Diepkloof, repairs of the twin Standard Bank ATMs bombed last year have been completed and they are expected to be operational next week.

Petrol station manager Sibusiso Thapera said the machines would be operational only during the day and that they would be protected by metal roller doors during the night.

The community of Mkhuhlu near Hazyview, Mpumalanga, was dealt a blow after their only ATM was shattered this past weekend.

They now have to pay R20 taxi fare to ATMs in the nearest town of Hazyview.

Petroleum giant BP has partnered with banks to instal metal roller doors at its petrol stations to protect the ATMs between 11pm and 4am.

BP also plans to remove ATMs in areas it deems to be high risk.