By Krishnee Naidoo

A trustee of the Maha Shiv Mandir on Hippo Road in Sea Cow Lake said it was truly divine intervention that saved the night when a gang of armed balaclava clad robbers stormed the temple during the start of the Gita Week preparations on Monday. Devotees were robbed of their cellphones, jewellery, wallets and handbags during the hold-up and the robbers fled taking three of the devotees’ vehicles. Two vehicles with tracking devices were later recovered.

Speaking to the Weekly Gazette, the still shocked trustee said, “It was the hand of God that saved our lives as we prepared for the Krishna Janmashtami festival. These robbers burst into the temple with their guns and told everyone to lie on the floor. People were shocked and were even begging for their lives.”

The devotee said the prayer had been completed and the prepared food was about to be distributed when the ordeal unfolded. “Due to the danger that lurks after dark, devotees are apprehensive about lingering for extended periods at the temple premises. Taking that into consideration, food packs were prepared for the devotees to eat at their homes. Suddenly, the masked robbers came in with their guns and chaos broke out,” said the temple trustee.

“The hand of God was certainly present because one devotee had thrown his wallet into a box and unbeknown to him, a suspect viewed that and fished it out. The suspect walked away with the wallet. The devotee’s concern at the time was saving his driver’s licence and important cards. A second devotee whose handbag was taken during the robbery remembered a receipt book inside the bag and sought out the robber who was in possession of the item. She quickly approached him and politely pleaded for the receipt bag only. The suspect obliged, emptied the contents of the bag on the floor, picked up the cellphone and cash notes for himself, and handed the receipt book to the devotee. That itself was quite surprising. There were no injuries. Just fear tore through the crowd,” the trustee added.

The robbers helped themselves to three vehicles parked in the temple yard. A Hyundai i20 and a Toyota Hilux bakkie were tracked and recovered in KwaDabeka shortly after the robbery whilst a Toyota Avanza is still being sought by police.

The trustee said the devotee who tried to hide his wallet in order to save his important cards was later ecstatic when his cards and licence was found behind a speaker.

“Devotees were left traumatised and as trustees we were concerned that they would not want to return to the temple after that terrible incident. Imagine our surprise when on Tuesday, we had a full crowd. Our devotees returned by divine faith. This is the first time that something like this has happened at our temple and we are just grateful that none of our members were injured,” said the trustee.

Police members at Newlands East SAPS are investigating an armed robbery case.