By Mashudu Netsianda
Three Honda Fit pirate taxi operators who were allegedly involved in a spate of armed robberies in Bulawayo using a firearm have been arrested.
Handsome Ncube (23) of Emakhandeni, Innocent Ncube (21) and Joshua Honest Maseko (22) both of Cowdray Park suburb allegedly offered lifts to their victims on different occasions between October last year and January this year before robbing them of their money, bank cards and cellphones at gunpoint.
They targeted unsuspecting hitchhikers looking for transport and offered them lifts in their two Honda Fit vehicles under the pretext that they were pirate taxi operators before robbing them of cash, cellphones, clothes and electrical gadgets.
The trio yesterday appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Mr Lizwe Jamela facing four counts of armed robbery.
They were remanded in custody to February 10 and advised to apply to the High Court for bail.
Prosecuting, Mr Nkathazo Dlodlo said between October 18 last year and January 21 this year, the three accused persons allegedly ganged up with Sonnyboy Sibanda who is still at large and committed a spate of armed robberies around Bulawayo.
“On December 27 last year at around 7PM, the complainant, Mr Dzikamai Taruvinga was at a hiking spot in Hope Fountain looking for transport to get to Bulawayo when the accused persons offered him a lift,” he said.
The court heard that upon reaching Burnside suburb, the accused persons diverted from the route and took Cecil Avenue and headed towards Gwanda road.
“When they reached a bushy area, the accused persons parked the car and robbed the complainant of a satchel which contained US$40, two pairs of trousers, a Mobicel cellphone, a wallet which had the victim’s bank card and his national identity card before dumping him at the scene,” said Mr Dlodlo.
On January 17 at about 9PM, Mr Shepherd Ncube of Queens Park East was waiting for transport intending to travel to the Central Business District when he was offered a lift by the accused persons.
“The accused persons were driving a silver Honda Fit and on reaching Baines Primary School, the accused persons demanded money and cellphones from the complainant at gunpoint. They searched him and took an SQ cellphone, bank card, $45, chicken cuts and tomatoes before they dumped him,” said Mr Dlodlo.
Two days later at about 11.45PM, another complainant, a Richmond resident, was waiting for transport near Amakhosi Theatre when the accused persons offered him a lift. The court heard that upon reaching Mzilikazi High School along Old Victoria Falls road, the accused persons demanded money and cellphones from the complainant at gunpoint while the others were pointing a knife at him.
They allegedly took a bottle of milk, $12, Samsung J1 cellphone, a Nokia Asha cellphone, half a dozen of eggs, two loaves and a bottle of maheu. They pushed the complainant out of the moving car and proceeded with their journey.
“On January 21 at about 9PM, the complainant Mr Timothy Banda of Colleen Bawn was looking for transport at the intersection of Intemba and Hyde Park roads in Pumula North when the accused persons stopped and offered him a lift to town,” said Mr Dlodlo.
The court heard that upon reaching Sizane High School turn-off along Hyde Park road, the four men diverted from the route and headed towards Old Lobengula.
They demanded money from the complainant at knifepoint before they searched him and took $400 and two cellphones and pushed him out of the car.
Innocent was arrested on January 24 after one of the stolen cellphones had been recovered from someone who is now a State witness. He implicated Handsome and Maseko as his accomplices leading to their arrest.
The three men were placed in an identification parade and the complainants managed to positively identify them. The Chronicle