The Edo-Mill taxi rank began to return to normal after the people in the crowd separated. The women street vendors returned to their tents and placed their cooking pots next to their vegetables and fruits on wooden tables. Residents began to board the parked taxis preparing to head to town and taxi drivers started their engines to drive the passengers to their requested destinations.

It was still early morning and I did not mind taking an uphill walk back home. I took the same route I had been following when the chaos had erupted down at the taxi rank. Walking along the pavement, passing the four-roomed houses lined up on my right. I just could not believe what I had just experienced and I could not wait to tell Sandile about it. I could not stop thinking about the pool of blood that had stained the dirt at the taxi rank, where the robber had fallen.

On my way home I stopped at Mustafa’s General Dealers, to help take my mind off the scene that I had just witnessed.

Mustafa’s specialised in selling new technology items such as computers, upgraded cellphones, sound systems and digital cameras. The shop was a cream-painted concrete building with two large black burglar bars at the front. The entrance door was made of oak and an elephant image was sculptured as decoration.

Mustafa, the owner of the shop, was a Muslim. He moved to South Africa at an early age due to family ties, and inherited the family business. It was always best to purchase a quality item at Mustafa’s, rather than buying a cheap thing that didn’t last.

The residents of Edo-Mill called him “my friend” and he had grown accustomed to the name.

I entered the shop and saw Mustafa sitting up high on his wooden chair behind the till.

“Good morning, my friend,” I greeted.

“Morning … Morning,” he replied with a smile.

All dressed in white, he wore his traditional fez and a long-sleeved robe. He was light in complexion, with small, observant eyes and a long black, neatly trimmed beard. Apart from the gadgets sold at the store, we always felt like we were experiencing a different culture when we entered Mustafa’s shop.

Mustafa gazed at me for a second and then turned his attention back to the cellphone he was busy fixing. It was around 9:30 am and the shop was nearly empty. There only were two or three customers, including myself, viewing the various items.

I had no idea how many times I had been at Mustafa’s gadget shop. I could never pass by without going in. The mood inside the shop was always tranquil; like you’d entered a different world and soft jazz music was playing in the background.

The store was loved by the residents. Everything was good quality, but affordable. I saw a camera I wanted and I promised myself I would get it at the end of summer. I began to look around at other goods on the glass shelves. I was on the third row of shelves, viewing the latest amplifiers and magnificent Hi-Fi sound systems, when right there inside the shop I heard a voice shout:

“Everybody put your hands up or I’ll blow your heads off!”

Shaking like a wind-rattled leaf, I dropped my newspaper on the floor and raised both my hands. It was like being in the movies, my heart was pumping so fast and images around me seemed to turn upside down. I turned around to stare at the front entrance.

“I said get your bloody hands up now!” shouted the voice for the second time.

No, this cannot be happening, I thought to myself. We were going to get jacked at Mustafa’s and nobody from the outside would even know. At the entrance, I saw four men in long, black leather jackets and stretched balaclavas. The one who shouted for us to get our hands up held a 9mm pistol, the second one held a short brownie pointing towards us and the other two men each held AK47s.

“Hey you, stupid old man, give us our money!” shouted the man at Mustafa as he pointed the 9mm pistol to his forehead.

“Take it out, you rat bastard … We want everything now … quick! Make it quick, quick! We don’t have time to be staring at your donkey-ass face, get moving! Get moving!”

Mustafa began taking out his safe boxes and handing over the money to the robbers, all the while continuing to plead:

“Please … Please … Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot … Please, I beg you.”

Sweat was running down Mustafa’s face as he placed the money on the table with his hands shaking, unable to stop them.

Ja! You stupid old man should be afraid,” laughed the robber while throwing all the money into the black pillowcase he was using as a money bag.

“If you were clever enough,” sneered another, “you would have thought twice before coming and making a home in Edo-Mill, baba. Just for being stupid like that we are now going to cash in on you.”

The other robber, the one who held the short brownie pistol, walked towards me and two other customers. The other two robbers, with AK47s, stayed and kept guard at the entrance.

As the robber walked towards us, I began to say a quick, silent prayer – asking forgiveness to the Lord for all the things I had done and pleading unto Him not to let anyone of us be killed.

“If any of you bastards move, I promise you, I will not be sorry when I shoot you.”

I told myself that whatever this guy says or wants me to do, I’ll do it. I won’t hesitate.

The other two customers were fearful like me because they also held their hands up high.

One of the robbers took out another pillowcase from his leather jacket and began to stuff a great number of digital items into it. He passed the three of us again, to meet up with his fellow robbers at the front entrance. He was now dragging two pillowcases in his left hand, with the brownie pistol in his right, pointing at the three of us.

“You got everything?” asked the robber near Mustafa.

Ja, Boss, everything is in here.”

“Good, then we can go; I’ve got what I came for. But before we leave this pigsty … do not disappoint me; you know we cannot leave this building without pouring our blessings in the traditional way. Business is business, boys; you know how we go about it.”

Slash! Slash! The three robbers cocked their pistols. At that moment my body just froze as I stood dead still. These guys had no mercy. They were ruthless killers with no conscience.

Bang! Bang! Bang! The robber with the short brownie pistol fired three shots at Mustafa’s forehead. Mustafa dropped dead on the floor.

The two with AK47s stepped towards us and opened fire. The three of us quickly rolled on the floor, screaming for our lives.

There was chaos everywhere as the glass shelves shattered and the gadgets fell apart in numbers on the concrete floor. The AK47s continued to rattle and rattle all over the shop until there was dead silence. Only grey dusty smoke was left.

* * *

Question: What makes the gang so brutal with their victims?