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Man allegedly dies in Shoprite cold room – security fires rubber bullets at protesters and journalists

Man allegedly dies in Shoprite cold room – security fires rubber bullets at protesters and journalists
Daily Maverick’s journalist Nonkululeko Njilo takes shelter behind a car from a hail of rubber bullets fired by a private security company near Shoprite at Ratanda Mall. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

On Monday, security guards outside Shoprite at Ratanda Mall in Heidelberg, Gauteng, opened fire with rubber bullets on a crowd that had gathered to demand answers after a suspected thief died after allegedly being locked in a cold room at the supermarket. Daily Maverick's journalist and photographer also got caught in the crossfire.

Bandile Tshabalala (33) died on Sunday, 19 May after allegedly being locked in a cold room at Shoprite in Heidelberg for about 11 hours for allegedly stealing a chocolate from the supermarket in Ratanda Mall, some 70km from Johannesburg.

His sister Simangele Tshabalala said that on Sunday night, “I was sleeping, then I heard a loud knock. At first, I assumed my brother was back home only to be told that he had died.

Bandile Tshabalala, Shoprite

Bandile Tshabalala died on Sunday 19 May 2024 after allegedly being locked in a cold room for about 11 hours, after he allegedly stole two slabs of chocolate at a Shoprite Supermarket in Ratanda Mall. (Photo: Supplied)

“I didn’t believe it, and wanted to see for myself.”

A barefoot Tshabalala and her brother’s friends rushed to the mall, where they saw his lifeless body. It had allegedly been removed from the cold room and placed outside Shoprite.

“What I saw broke my heart. His body was frozen, he could not move or anything; it’s like he died while trying to keep himself warm — with hands wrapped around his upper body,” she said.

Simangele Tshabalala

Simangele Tshabalala, elder sister to Bandile Tshabalala who died at a Shoprite supermarket in Ratanda Mall. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Shoprite did not respond to questions sent by Daily Maverick but confirmed it had instituted an investigation into the incident.

“The supermarket chain extends its condolences to the family following their loss. The allegations are seen in an extremely serious light and the necessary steps will be taken pending the outcome of a full investigation.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘I know I’m sinning, but it’s for my kids’ – hunger and poverty driving the spike in shoplifting in SA

“We cannot comment on the details of the incident as it is a police matter, and the local South African Police Service (SAPS) should be contacted for more information. We always give our full cooperation and provide all available information to the SAPS to assist their investigation,” Shoprite said.

The Heidelberg police referred queries to the provincial office, which could not be reached for comment by the time of publishing.

Private security, Shoprite

Private security evacuated residents at Shoprite supermarket in Ratanda Mall. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Community unrest  

On Monday, a crowd of more than 100 people gathered near Shoprite in the Ratanda Mall and was met by a heavy private security presence. Tensions were high, with Shoprite management apparently refusing to address the angry crowd.

A man who identified himself as a centre manager told Daily Maverick journalists, “Get out, or you’ll have serious problems”.

Moments later, rubber bullets were fired and the crowd fled, with some stopping to throw stones at the guards. Daily Maverick‘s journalist and photographer also had to shelter from the flying rubber bullets.

The shots continued after the crowd left the premises, forcing bystanders to seek shelter behind trees and cars. A woman walking with her primary school son screamed, “Why are they killing us?”


Residents and shoppers hiding behind cars and fleeing while private security open fire outside Shoprite Supermarket in Ratanda Mall. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)


Shoppers flee as private security shoot at them outside Shoprite at Ratanda Mall. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

At least two police vehicles simply drove past the scene of mayhem.

Resident Mooi Macingwane said, “We are being shot at because we want justice and answers. How can they do this when one of us is no more? Nobody deserves to die like that, regardless of what they have done.”


Residents and TV crew hiding behind cars while private security shoot rubber bullets outside Shoprite Supermarket in Ratanda Mall. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Another resident, Thokoza Dlamini, said that last year, her niece had stolen a packet of cheese from Shoprite and was locked in its cold room.

“They confirmed to me that because police cannot arrest young children, they lock them in the cold room for two hours. It is a normal thing here, we are used to it.”

Thokoza Dlaminini

Thokoza Dlaminini was angered by the death of Bandile Tshabalala. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Shoprite did not respond to the claim.

Bandile Tshabalala’s neighbour Mzwandile Skhosana said, “He was smoking, like the other youth, but we have never heard of a single complaint about him stealing or doing wrong things in the community.  Whenever he was hungry, he would ask for food and we would share as neighbours.”

His sister Simangele said, “I am not saying that he didn’t do the crime, but I doubt it. Even if he did, he didn’t deserve to die like a dog.”

Hours after the incident, Gauteng’s MEC for safety, Faith Mazibuko, addressed a crime imbizo and outlined measures to tackle the scourge of criminality in Ratanda and surrounding areas. These include the deployment of wardens and patrollers, the use of e-panic buttons, and the installation of six CCTV cameras. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Locking someone in a cold room is murder, and if they don’t die, a very serious assault. Has anyone been charged? The managers?

    • A B says:

      He’s a thief. This is the problems with liberals, they side with the criminal everytime.

      • Gavin Hillyard says:

        A life has been lost whether a thief or not. Somebody must be responsible surely? And must be brought to justice for manslaughter at the very least.

      • Rob Martin says:

        You need help my friend!

      • Wade de Jager de Jager says:

        Wow, @AB are you a chatbot or are you a real human being? Are you seriously suggesting that someone should be locked in a freezer to die because they stole chocolate/food? If that is what you are suggesting then please can you explain your thinking?

      • Troy Marshall says:

        WOW! Well, he’s not a thief now

        I believe criminals should be punished
        I believe the punishment should fit the crime
        I don’t believe a chocolate theft should end in death – if that makes me a liberal, then so be it

  • Coen Gous says:

    O my God, first the store owner out the boy in a cold storage room overnight for stealing a bar of chocolate then died, then security guards shot protestors with rubber bullets who rightfully protested. How very very cruel!!!

  • Thomas Cleghorn says:

    Sad. If there was more confidence in police and investigations the community wouldn’t have to go down to Shoprite for answers or seek some street justice. What ever happened about toxicology reports from the Enyobeni Tavern disaster…still nothing….

  • Rob Martin says:

    What absolute lack of humanity on the part of the store management. We need less people like that in this country if we are going to survive.

  • Dietmar Horn says:

    Instead of complaining about the situation and blaming each other, we should stop for a moment and try to think logically. Isn’t it in the nature of things that a failed state order ultimately ends in anarchy, vigilantism and nihilism? Why are we surprised at the general brutalization of morals?

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    “At least two police vehicles simply drove past the scene of mayhem.”

    That pretty much sums it up. The absence of policing makes vigilantism inevitable.

  • Troy Marshall says:

    11 hours in a freezer for stealing a chocolate – that’s messed up

    • virginia crawford says:

      What’s even more messed up is people regarding this as almost ok: I don’t think one has to be liberal to oppose crucifixion, public beheadings and hanging although I suspect AB might be quite excited at the prospect. White collar criminals generally receive less punishment than thieves, so wear a suit, steal millions and you’ll probably get away with it, but shoplift and it’s a major crime to some. It’s a petty crime whichever way you cut it.

  • Siyabonga Hlongwa Hlongwa says:

    Someone here must take responsibility thieving or not no one deserves to die

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    No-one deserves to die for stealing but it’s equally true that no-one deserves to be stolen from. Sadly in our country neither of those acts come with much threat of apprehension and prosecution by the state. Vacuums get filled and the one left by the twat in the hat and the minister of ICJ applications is filling up with vigilantes fast. You can’t have a functioning modern state in the absence of law enforcement.

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