Television actress Connie Ferguson was one of hundreds of shoppers caught up in the chaos at Greenacres Shopping Centre in what many believed was a robbery on Saturday afternoon.
Greenacres took to Facebook to assure shoppers it was just a false alarm, but this meant nothing to shoppers who ran fearing for their lives – including Ferguson who took refuge in the back room of a cellular shop in the shopping centre.
Police who were on the scene but are not authorised to speak to the media said a water pipe had burst, triggering the fire alarm. Shoppers heard the alarm, panicked and contacted police saying an armed robbery was in progress and police rushed to the scene to find there was robbery.
The former Generations actress, best known for her Karabo Moroka which she portrayed for more than a decade and can now be seen in telenova The Queen, took to Twitter to share her experience in which her TUMI purse “with my whole life in it!” and rose gold iPhone 6 Plus – went missing.
“This after surviving a stampede of people running away and all over the place from a presumed armed robbery in the centre! If it hadn’t been so scary it would actually be funny!”
Greenacres centre management said in a Facebook post addressed to patrons on Saturday afternoon: “Please note that there was a false alarm triggered at the mall this afternoon (Sat 3 Sept). There is no need for worry or panic. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Greenacres Centre Management.”
But there were mixed opinions from shoppers.
Lee-Ann Evans Riche posted in reply to the centre management announcement she was with her son near Clicks when the chaos started.
“It was a terrifying experience. We also heard a sound, like the sound of gunshots. We ran for our lives while others were running from Checkers side screaming. We ran into Edgars. They eventually closed their doors,” she wrote.
“I’m so glad my son did not see the police. Once we got out, we walked around past CNA, that is when we walked into the smoke neAr Fishers. It was a terrible experience. Clearly puts me off going back to Greenacres. My son was left traumatised yesterday.”
Ronel J Jacobs wrote simply: “Xperience speak for its self .I ws there with my daughter and dnt think I’ll take her to a shopping mall soon …….”
Lakin Hafkie wrote that she longer went to the popular shopping centre.
“Our baby girl is still traumatised of the last ‘false alarm’ you had in June. I don’t mind myself but what it does to our kids. She is 4 years old and was terrified and worried about her 4month old brother who wasn’t strapped in his pram at the time because we we’re busy eating,” she wrote.
“What protocols do you guys follow? Do you have a evacuation plan in place with the tenants? They seem more confused then us, your customers when these incidents occur.”
Tessa Colville was a bit more complimentary: “I was at checkers greenacres this afternoon when the incident happened with my grandchild and I personally think the managers at checkers manage the situation very well. They closed the shop doors and kept the shoppers inside and went out to assess the situation before they reopened the doors.”
– Additional reporting by Gareth Wilson