Efforts to promote theatre in Khayelitsha took a massive blow last week when six armed men stormed Khayelitsha Art School and Rehabilitation Centre (KASI RC) in Zwelitsha, Khayelitsha, and robbed the patrons.
The shocking incident happened on Saturday 10 October. It is alleged that the suspects came under false pretense to watch “a free show”. But they immediately forced their way into the facility and began robbing people, leaving about 100 children, who had come to watch the show, traumatised.
They allegedly took four iPhones, a MacBook, video cameras and belongings of the students as well as cash. The robbery took place at around 14:30.
The assailants were not hiding their faces and it is believed they used the money on some of the bank cards to buy expensive alcohol in a tavern in Y Section.
This is believed to have been uncovered by police when card owners were closing the bank cards.
The suspects had already used more than R4 000 that was available in the cards.
Prior to robbing the theatre, it is believed the suspects had been roaming the streets nearby.
It is said that one of the deaf students was hit with a gun over the head and collapsed. This, after he did not follow the instructions from the suspects.
Founders of the facility, Mandisi Sindo and Liso Sindo (creative director), are now worried about their safety. They are both in hiding.
Mandisi said: “Today we were kept hostage with our close to 100 kids at our theatre. We were getting ready for today’s showcase when about six men got inside with guns and took everything that belongs to me, the students and my family.”
The pair believes there’s not enough safety in Khayelitsha. They say the robbery took away what they love. “I have been doing development and helping young people to discover their dreams but I did not know that one day someone will point guns at me like they did this afternoon. I am totally heartbroken for the kids aged eight to 25 who had to experience this traumatic moment,” said a distraught Mandisi.
He said they were happy for friends who were visiting in the afternoon and couldn’t make it in time as they may have fallen prey to the incident. “The safe spaces are not safe. Please be vigilant, careful and take good care of yourself. Who on earth robs an unfunded rehabilitation centre and art school? Hay kubi and I can’t say we are safe because I do not know what the future holds,” said Liso, asking for assistance to get their belongings back.
Liso says the incident has left them heartbroken, especially when they think of what they had done for the community for the past eight years. “Even during the Covid-19 we were the champions of Khayelitsha where we openly fed thousands of people including kids, those living with disabilities and elderly. We are scared to even say we are Khayelitshians anymore. The Khayelitsha we loved has turned into a jungle,” said Liso.
The South African Youth Council (SAYC) in the Western Cape expressed shock and dismay at the robbery.
“We are angered by the greed of these thugs, who have taken away from a non-funded project that seeks to develop youth and to help young people realise their dreams. We wish to call on the police to speed up the investigations, and we call on them to make arrests this time. They dare not further fail the youth of the Western Cape,” read the SAYC media statement.
SAYC said the incident was a further testimony to the drug problem in the province “Cape Town in particular – because we know that this equipment is likely to be sold for a fix of drugs”.
The movement called on the community of Khayelitsha to help recover the stolen items.
“We acknowledge and thank the department of social development for offering psychosocial support to the 100 youth that were at the venue when the robbery took place. We will use our relationship with the police to try and put pressure for this investigation to be finalised with results,” said SAYC.
Harare police station commander Col Joseph Raboliba has confirmed the incident. He said no arrest has been made and the matter is still under investigation.
“A case of business robbery has been opened. Items that were taken are clothing cards, bank cards, a silver MacBook Pro valued at R20 000, two iPhones valued R17 000 and a Dixon phone valued at R1 000,” he said.
Raboliba urged any person with information that may lead to the arrest of the perpetrators to phone 082 469 1725.