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SAPS capture gang during Badplaas armed robbery

Local SAPS have reason to congratulate themselves on the capture of a gang of criminals during an attempted armed robbery in Badplaas recently. The four-man gang, heavily armed and thought to be responsible for a series of crimes committed at different locations along the Machadodorp/Skurweberg/Badplaas road were captured red-handed during the course of yet another attack in an attempted armed robbery in the town.

The spate of regional attacks began in late May with an attack on husband and wife, Willie & Jacomien Bernard, on their farm Rietfontein, a short distance outside of Machadodorp. In a brazen daylight raid, the couple were attacked and overpowered at approximately 09h00 by a gang of four men. After tying up the helpless couple, the attackers ransacked the premises and subsequently escaped with their haul in the couples’ bakkie. Many hours later, Mrs. Bernard was eventually able to free herself at approximately 16h00 and raise the alarm. SAPS subsequently secured the scene and began their investigation. As the Machadodorp region has an extremely effective Community Policing Forum (CPF), as well as a well-organised Farmer’s Union, the communications procedures put in place for alerting residents to the danger posed by the criminals quickly swung into action. In a very short space of time, all at-risk residents had been advised of the attack and warned to be alert.
Despite these warnings, it was not long before the criminals struck again. Shortly before dusk on 29 May, Mr. Piet van Tonder was ambushed and overpowered by four men on his farm Uitkomst as he arrived home. Van Tonder was tied up and robbed of an unspecified amount of cash that had been intended to pay workers’ wages. A number of household items were also stolen and the thieves once again fled, taking van Tonder’s bakkie with them. Despite his best efforts, van Tonder was unable to free himself and it was only the next morning that he was found by farm workers and released – sore, but otherwise relatively unscathed. This time, however, things did not go quite as planned for the attackers as van Tonder’s stolen bakkie was quickly found abandoned at the roadside in the Wathaba area. It had fortuitously run out of fuel. Despite their best efforts and vigilance of local residents, SAPS were unsuccessful in snaring the gang.

Thanks to repeated CPF and Farmer’s Union warnings and updates to residents which had kept them informed of events, a further attempted attack at the farm of Mrs. Rika Marais and her daughter in the Bloemfontein area was foiled on Sunday 1 June. Four males arrived at the farm in a double-cab GWM bakkie and asked for the “phone number of Eskom” to “report a fault”. A forewarned Marais immediately became suspicious and called for help. Despite the quick reaction of friends and neighbours who hurried to her aid, the would-be attackers managed to escape. Once again, police and residents were kept updated by the effective local communications network. Seemingly undaunted, the very next day, the gang attempted to rob a business in Badplaas. Alerted to the presence of the gang operating in the area, quick reactions by the Badplaas SAPS managed to foil the robbery and arrested three out of the four suspects – with a fourth managing to escape. One of the stolen bakkies was recovered, along with a quantity of stolen goods, as well as a number of firearms and a quantity of ammunition. In a follow up to this successful SAPS operation, it has been reported that the fourth gang member has since handed himself over to police in Pretoria to make this action a “clean sweep” for the SAPS. Investigations are continuing and SAPS are confident that the string of crimes can be linked to the same suspects and that all cases will be solved.

The SAPS officers of both Machadodorp and Badplaas deserve credit for a job well done. It should be noted that, due to the role that ordinary residents and farmers alike played in constantly alerting and updating people in the affected area, it is almost certain that further crimes and potential loss of life were averted. Forewarned is forearmed – and constant communication and vigilance is the key.

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