By Thupeyo Muleya
A 44-year-old police officer travelling from Masvingo to Beitbridge was shot and injured while 59 other passengers on board a Smart Express bus were robbed of money and other valuables by six armed robbers a few kilometres from the border town in the early hours of yesterday.
The incident occurred about 20km before Beitbridge Town along the Beitbridge-Masvingo Road around 2am. The police are now pursuing the gunmen while the injured cop, Sergeant Desire Hombarume is admitted to Beitbridge District Hospital.
Sgt Hombarume who is deployed to Beitbridge ZRP Urban is said to be in a stable condition.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the bus was travelling from Mutare to Beitbridge. He said the six suspected armed robbers and the injured police officer had all boarded the bus in Masvingo.
Asst Comm Nyathi said the police were also worried about the recurrence of hijackings and armed robberies targeted at motorists and buses. He said the crime was common between Masvingo and Beitbridge and Bulawayo and Beitbridge.
“We are investigating a case where 60 people including a police officer on board a Smart Express bus were robbed at gunpoint of their valuables by six yet to be known men. Preliminary investigations reveal that the suspects boarded the bus in Masvingo along with the police officer, though they were not travelling together. When they were getting closer to Lutumba Business Centre, the bus driver enquired if there was anyone disembarking at the point. He did not get any response, and suddenly four men stood up from the back and walked towards the door, where the police officer was seated.”
He said one of the suspects who had heard the policeman identifying himself to the bus crew in Masvingo shot him in the left buttock once. Asst Comm Nyathi said the suspects then fired some warning shots and ordered everyone to lie down, resulting in the driver stopping the bus. As a result, the robbers stripped the passengers of various valuables including money.
“They took US$108 from the injured police officer. During the fracas, some passengers managed to escape through windows. The total amount of the stolen property is yet to be established. The matter was then reported to the police who rushed their colleague to the hospital for medical attention. He is in a stable condition and still under treatment and observation,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi said police were yet to ascertain the type and exact numbers of firearms the robbers used. He said further investigations were underway. Asst Comm Nyathi appealed to communities in Bulawayo, Beitbridge, Gwanda, and Masvingo to work with the police to bring the gun-toting criminals to book.
“We are appealing to communities living in Beitbridge and surrounding towns where cases of armed robberies have been happening to work with the police in bringing the criminals to justice. Though, we have been making many arrests we need more assistance from the communities,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
He said public transporters should take note that the country was still under lockdown and hence they must avoid travelling between 10pm and 6am (as per the curfew regulations).
The public transporters, he said should revert to the previously agreed position that they should demand passengers’ details when transporting people.
According to Asst Comm Nyathi, such an arrangement will help identify some criminals and even deter some from attempting to hit those travelling in public.
In 2018, one person was killed, while three others were injured when an armed robber attacked another Smart Express bus at the 10km peg along the Beitbridge-Masvingo Road. The bus was travelling from Mutare to Musina in South Africa when tragedy struck near Mapayi turn-off at about 3am.
Police investigations revealed that the suspect had boarded the bus at Birchenough Bridge indicating he was dropping off in Masvingo.
However, the man did not disembark at his destination and later asked the driver to stop the bus before getting to Beitbridge insisting he had arrived. There has been an increase in armed robberies in thttps://www.sundaynews.co.zw/robbers-shoot-cop-strip-59-passengers/he southern parts of the country in recent months that has seen individuals and businesses losing cars and money. The Sunday News