By Thupeyo Muleya
Three Zimbabwean men commonly known as omalayitsha and a South African woman, are expected to go for trial at the Palm Ridge High Court in Johannesburg between October 10 and November 4, facing 62 counts of murder, rape, robbery, extortion and assault among other violent crimes committed against fellow countrymen south of the Limpopo River.
The four are accused of kidnapping more than 100 Zimbabweans and killing several others including two Harare women.
Charles Cecil Brewer (36), alias Boss of Nketa 7 in Bulawayo, his South African wife, Madida Petition Sicelo (30) alias Sister, Jaheni ‘Satan’ Luphahla (28) of Old Lobengula in Bulawayo and Phathumuzi ‘KK’ Sibanda (27) of Emakhandeni in Bulawayo are accused of committing the offences between May 30 and July 11.
They have been languishing in remand prison since their arrest in July last year, and were denied bail at the Thembisa Magistrates’ Court in Johannesburg before the matter was transferred to the higher court.
The matter has been dragging on as the accused have been struggling to get a lawyer soon after dumping the State’s free legal practitioners.
Sources close to the investigations said yesterday that, Brewer and his accomplices have been formally charged with 62 counts for crimes ranging from murder, rape, kidnapping, assault (GBH), robbery, human trafficking and extortion.
“They are believed to be part of a syndicate targeting mostly women travelling between Musina and Johannesburg in Gauteng Province.
“The gang was picked up during a police sting operation in Musina on July 25 last year while preying on unsuspecting victims who were travelling to Johannesburg.
“The accused persons have been positively identified by most of the victims,” said the source.
The official said Brewer and Madida were identified as the drivers of the white Opel registration numbers SNB949GP and the red Hyundai Matrix registration numbers ND462078.
The four are accused of killing Olga Gwena, 25 of Chitungwiza and Esther Mwenda of Harare.
The syndicate operated from Total and Engen filling stations and a house in Musina, where they pounced on
Zimbabwean hitch-hikers travelling to Gauteng Province.
The State has subpoenaed more than 100 witnesses to testify against the four.
Brewer, who is allegedly the mastermind of the orgy of crimes, has reportedly approached the prosecution for a plea bargain, which would see him turning into a key state witnesses to expose other members of his syndicate who have become elusive, following his arrest last year.
The suspects allegedly used South African registered private vehicles and touts to lure the unsuspecting victims into their cars, which they then kidnapped and detained at various houses upon reaching Johannesburg.
Upon getting to Johannesburg, the suspects would turn violent and detain the victims after stripping them of various valuables including money.
They then demanded money from the victims’ relatives to secure their release. The money, which ranged from R3 000 and above, would be paid through money agencies including Shoprite, PEP, and Spar or Cambridge stores among others.
Zimbabwe’s Consul General to South Africa, Mr Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro said despite the arrest of Brewer and his accomplices, they continued to receive reports of Zimbabweans who are being terrorised in the same manner.
He urged Zimbabweans to always use public transport, especially conventional buses when travelling to the neighbouring country and that they must desist from the culture of hitch-hiking as they risked their lives. The Chronicle