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Pirate taxi driver in ‘armed robbery’ scheme

By Mashudu Netsianda

A pastor who drives a pirate taxi in Bulawayo allegedly ganged up with five accomplices who masqueraded as cops and robbed his two clients of cellphones, a bag containing money and a passport at gunpoint.

FIREARM-AND-GUN- robberyThe taximan, Benson Mashava (25) of Njube suburb was used as a bait to lure the two victims into his car by Mbuso Dube (35) of Iminyela suburb, Tinashe Masamba (24) of Old Pumula and three other accomplices who are still at large.

Soon after the robbery, Mashava went to Bulawayo Central Police Station and made a false report of car theft.

It was stated in court papers that on November 28 shortly after 12 midday, Mr Genius Zondo (26) and Mr Simon Mlambo (52), disembarked from a Victoria Falls train upon arrival at Bulawayo railway station.

They were received by Mashava with whom they had made prior transport arrangements.

The unsuspecting complainants, however, did not know that Mashava had tipped off his accomplices that the two men were carrying large sums of money.

Soon after getting into the car, a Toyota Vitz, Mr Zondo and Mr Mlambo directed Mashava to a hiking spot along the Bulawayo-Harare road where they intended to catch a lift to Kwekwe.

Upon arrival at the hiking spot, Mashava did not stop and he shot past on the pretext that he wanted to refuel at a nearby service station.

He stopped near the service station and alighted from the car, leaving the two complainants inside the car and he did not remove the keys from the ignition port.

He allegedly alerted his accomplices, who had laid an ambush. They emerged from the back of the car armed with knives and a pistol.

The accused persons got into the car and introduced themselves to the complainants as police officers. One of the accused persons who was carrying a pistol pointed the firearm at the two victims.

They took one the complainants’ bag containing US$201, $165, 10 Zambian kwacha, two pairs of shoes, a pair of trousers, shirts and a passport. They drove off with the two complainants during which they searched them and took their cellphones.

After robbing the two men, the accused persons drove back to the service station where they dropped them off.

They drove for a few metres and disembarked from the Toyota Vitz and got into a Honda Fit, which had no number plates and sped off.

Mashava was arrested at the Bulawayo Central Police Station where he had gone to make a false report. He implicated Dube and Masamba leading to their arrest. The other three suspects are still at large.

Mashava, Dube and Masamba, through their lawyers Tanaka Law Chambers, have since applied for bail pending trial at the Bulawayo High Court citing the State as a respondent.

In their bail statement, the three accused persons are denying the charges, arguing that there was no evidence linking them to the alleged offence.

Mashava said he was a known taxi driver and pastor. He said on that particular day, he had made prior arrangements with Mr Zondo to offer him transport upon arrival in Bulawayo.

“The fact that I didn’t know where the complainants wanted to be dropped made it impossible for me to arrange with my alleged accomplices to lay an ambush,” said Mashava.

Dube said he was not involved in the robbery and argued that he only knew Mashava as his regular fuel customer.

Masamba said he did not know his alleged accomplices. He said he was arrested while parked near the scene of the crime waiting for his girlfriend.

The accused persons said there were no compelling reasons warranting their continued detention.

The three men said the State’s assertion that if released on bail they would abscond was not supported by facts.

“As it stands there is no evidence whatsoever that there is a likelihood of evading trial. The applicants vehemently refute these charges and the court can impose stringent conditions to minimise any chances of absconding,” said the trio’s lawyers.

The three accused persons offered to pay $500 bail each and to report twice a week at the Bulawayo Central Police Station as well as not interfering with State witnesses as part of the bail conditions.

The State, which was represented by Mrs Sifiso Ndlovu-Sibanda opposed the application, saying there was no guarantee that if granted bail, the three men would not abscond.

She said the State case is strong. The Chronicle