By Mashudu Netsianda
Two Bulawayo men allegedly linked to a consignment of smuggled Broncleer worth $1,2 million confiscated by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) Tuesday before armed robbers raided the taxman’s depot and seized the drugs have been arrested.
Broncleer, commonly known as Bronco, is a cough mixture which was banned over its abuse as a euphoric drug.
Mhlalisi Nyathi (37) of Cowdray Park, who is a cross-border transporter and Khumbulani Ndlovu (43) of Penwith Court in the city’s central business district and is employed as truck driver by a South African transport company were arrested on Tuesday after their truck loaded with 144 boxes of Broncleer smuggled from South Africa was impounded.
The contraband, which was concealed under a consignment of groceries, was being transported to Bulawayo in a haulage truck when it was intercepted by police in Esigodini.
Nyathi allegedly hired Ndlovu’s truck to ferry the smuggled consignment from South Africa. The contraband was seized by Zimra officials near Esigodini and taken to their container depot in Bulawayo. Hours later, armed robbers raided the premises and went away with the consignment.
Nyathi and Ndlovu appeared yesterday before Bulawayo magistrate Mr Shepherd Mjanja facing charges of possession of unregistered drugs.
They were remanded out of custody to August 3 on $1 000 bail each.
As part of the bail conditions they were ordered to report at Luveve Police Station once every two weeks and to continue residing at their given addresses until the matter is finalised.
They were also ordered not to interfere with State witnesses.
Prosecuting, Mr Carlington Dliwayo said detectives from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Drugs Section, received information that there was a haulage truck, a Mercedes Benz, which was impounded by Zimra after it was intercepted while carrying a smuggled consignment from South Africa.
“Acting on the information, the detectives with the assistance of a Zimra official searched the truck and managed to recover 144 boxes of Broncleer cough syrup, which is not registered in Zimbabwe. It has more than 5mg of codeine content valued at $1 224 000,” he said.
Nyathi and Ndlovu were arrested and a notice of seizure was issued by Zimra under number 014982L on Tuesday.
The truck and smuggled drugs were taken to the Zimra container depot at Raylton Industrial Area in Bulawayo.
A gang whose exact number could not be ascertained struck at the depot on the same day at around 7.30PM.
The suspects who were armed with an FN rifle threatened to shoot security guards who were manning the premises in the event that they raised alarm before tying their hands using a rope. They offloaded the impounded goods from the truck. Sources said the suspects were travelling in a Toyota Quantum which had no number plates.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the suspects used bolt cutters to destroy the locking system at the main entrance before they drove in.
He said two suspects who were armed with iron bars and bolt cutters emerged first from the Toyota Quantum and confronted the security guards. He said they were later joined by their accomplices and they offloaded the loot from the impounded truck.
“Initially, it is these two suspects who confronted the security guards and later on the kombi drove into the premises and it could not be established how many others were inside the vehicle.
“They loaded some illicit goods which were in a truck that had been impounded with smuggled goods, which included 144 boxes of Broncleer and four boxes containing bottles of Gordon’s Gin,” said Asst Comm Nyathi said.
He said the suspects sped off. The Chronicle