The man who allegedly tried to rob a bank at the Menlyn Maine shopping centre in the east of Pretoria on Tuesday, donned a wig and sprinkled his fake bomb with gunpowder, police have said.
The suspect, who lives in Garsfontein, a stone's throw away from the shopping centre, is believed to have entered the Absa bank around 11:15 and walked straight to a bank teller, before handing over a note.
According to police spokesperson Captain Colette Weilbach, the note said he had a bomb and that he wanted an undisclosed amount of money. The bank teller then pressed the silent alarm.
"The security immediately reacted and evacuated the whole shopping centre. The SAPS responded and arrested the man inside the bank. A firearm was confiscated," Wielbach said.
The police's bomb squad and K9 units were called to the scene to inspect the device. While the sniffer dogs initially reacted positively to the device, the bomb disposal unit found that it was not a bomb, but that the man had sprinkled gunpowder on the device to give it authenticity.
The entire shopping centre was evacuated.
Several employees working at different stores had no idea what was transpiring, only telling News24 that the alarm had gone off and that security had asked them to leave the centre and wait at the designated areas.
One employee at a store in the centre, who did not want to be named, said he had seen employees of the bank which was allegedly held up, and that they looked distressed.
A paramedic source on scene said bank employees were receiving trauma counselling.
News24 previously reported that Tshiwela Mhlantla, managing executive, physical channels, RBB, at Absa, had confirmed the incident, but said that all their customers and staff were safe.
"A suspect entered our Menlyn branch and threatened to harm himself and those in the branch, unless he was given a large sum of money. He has been apprehended and the branch and building have been evacuated," Mhlantla said.
The suspect, who is now in police custody is expected to appear in the Hatfield Community Court soon on charges of making a false threat and attempted bank robbery, Weilbach said.
By 15:00 on Tuesday, the shopping centre was declared safe by police and reopened.