By Brenda Zinyuke
Five men from Bulawayo who masqueraded as police officers before robbing several residents of more US$30 000 and R43 000 as well as an assortment of goods worth more than $200 000 have been arrested.
Sibanengi Nhawira (35) of Leander House in the city’s central business district, Lovemore Ncube (39) of Old Magwegwe, Kudakwashe Musoni (31) of Old Luveve suburb as well as Musa Masuku (46) and Raymond Masawi (30) both of Mzilikazi suburb allegedly connived and robbed 17 Bulawayo residents on different occasions between May last year and November this year.
During the commission of the offences, the accused persons who were allegedly armed with pistols, wore police uniforms and carried handcuffs.
They allegedly raided homes and looted cellphones, car batteries, solar invertors, plasma televisions, cars and shoes among other items.
Three Bulawayo regional magistrates, Mr Joseph Mabeza, Mrs Sibonginkosi Mkandla and Mr Mafios Moyo took turns to preside over the cases of the five men who are facing nine counts of armed robbery and attempted robbery.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges and were remanded in custody to December 11.
They were also advised to apply at the High Court for bail.
Prosecuting, Mr Simbarashe Manyiwa said between May 1 and October 28 last year, Nhawira and Ncube stole over US$27 000, R30 000 and RTGS$16 000 from four complainants in the city.
On March 11 this year, Nhawira, Ncube and Masawi allegedly approached two money changers Mr Phathisani Moyo (25) and Mr Taurai Tinarwo (30) in Emakhandeni suburb.
Mr Moyo got into the house with a satchel that had R25 000, US$1 000 and RTGS$1 000 while his colleague Mr Tinarwo remained outside guarding the car.
The trio allegedly approached him and one of them was wearing a police uniform and carrying a pistol.
They told him that he was under arrest for illegal changing of money.
Some of the accused persons rushed into the house and demanded the bag that Mr Moyo was carrying.
They then allegedly handcuffed Mr Moyo and Mr Tinarwo and took their money and cellphones.
The armed robbers allegedly forced the two into Mr Moyo’s car, a Toyota Harrier and drove towards Emganwini where they dumped them before driving back to the central business district. They dumped the vehicle along 12th Avenue.
On March 30 at around 10PM, Mr Michael Chigutiswa was on his way home when he was allegedly approached by Nhawira, Ncube and Masawi.
The men allegedly attacked him when he was near the gate while they were armed with pistols.
They allegedly took away his bag which had RTGS$7 000, R3 000, 2 000 pula and US$3 000.
Sometime in October this year, the gang allegedly confronted Mr Brighton Tazvivinga in Emakhandeni suburb purporting to be police officers who intended to change foreign currency into local money.
“The accused persons allegedly went into the house in the company of another accused person still at large who remained by the gate to stand guard. They allegedly threatened to shoot Mr Tazvivinga and other occupants with a pistol, before robbing them of R6 000, US$570, RTGS$5 000 and cellphones,” said Mr Manyiwa.
During the same month, Ncube, Nhawira and Masawi allegedly went to Ms Sikhethiwe Ndlovu’s homestead in Matopo armed with a pistol, knife and handcuffs.
They found her in the company of her two daughters and they took turns to assault them while at the same time demanding money.
They allegedly forced Ms Ndlovu into her bedroom where they ordered her to unpack her clothes from the wardrobe during which US$950 fell from the clothes and they allegedly took it and left.
Mr Manyiwa said on November 13 this year at around 11AM, Nhawira and Ncube misrepresented themselves to Mr Audriane Ndebele as police detectives and he tipped them about one Anele Ndlovu who was being investigated for robbery, which occurred at her employer’s hardware business.
The court heard that Nhawira and Ncube allegedly promised to investigate the matter.
“On the same day at around 8PM, Nhawira and his accomplices allegedly proceeded to Anele Ndlovu’s house in Nkulumane where they found three family members and they introduced themselves as police officers and requested to see the owner of the house, who was, however, not around,” said Mr Manyiwa.
They allegedly ordered the three occupants to sit down before they searched the house and went away with R1 500, US$202, five cellphones and a laptop.
Investigations were conducted leading to the arrest of the five men.
They were positively identified by the complainants during an identification parade at Bulawayo Central Police station.
Mr Bruce Masamvu of Mutatu, Masamvu and Da Silva-Gustavo Law Chambers is representing the accused persons. The Chronicle