By Freeman Razemba
Just as the notorious Masendeke family, the country has seen another family of suspected serial armed robbers involving four siblings from the Mupamhanga family believed to be the mastermind of several robberies around the country, including the famous Mashwede Holdings robbery in Harare.
The name Masendeke used to hit the headlines before Edgar Edmund Masendeke was hanged for murder 19 years ago after being convicted of killing a prison officer during an escape attempt. In April 2013, his brothers Elson, Edward and Ernest were accused of murder. Elson was arrested, while Edward and Ernest went on the run.
Edgar was executed in 2002 after committing many crimes, including murder and escaping from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. When he was captured, Edgar was accused of committing 38 sensational crimes ranging from rape, attempted murder to murder and kidnapping. He pleaded guilty to all of them.
Edgar further captivated the nation when he escaped from Chikurubi Maximum Prison in November 1995 together with Elias Chauke, Stephen Chidhumo, Pedzisayi Musariri and Marko Ngulube.
However, during the past few years, the Mupamhanga siblings — Musafare, Liberty (29) Godfrey (27) and their sister Leona (33) all from Hwedza — are a suspected criminal family. Most have been arrested on several occasions before being released on bail pending appeal and then absconding.
Godfrey and Liberty are also alleged to be involved with the suspected serial armed robber and gang leader Musa Taj Abdul (47), who was finally arrested by a police crack team in Beitbridge last year after a fierce gunfight. Taj Abdul and others suspected to be part of his gang were arrested in dramatic fashion, with dog teams playing a leading role.
Liberty and Godfrey are already in remand prison awaiting trial while Musafare and Leona are out on bail.
Musafare has since gone into hiding and police are looking for him after failed to turn-up at the court on several occasions.
His other accomplice, Spicer Takawira also alleged to be part of Musa Taj Abdul’s gang, is also on the run after he was released on bail pending appeal. The two have also not been reporting on their bail conditions set for them by the courts.
Musafare and Takawira have been issued with warrants of arrest after failing to turn up in court on May 7 and April 28 this year and their whereabouts are still not known.
Takawira of Highfield, Musafare Mupamhanga and Conwell Junior Kasambarare (26) are alleged to be part of 10-member gang that raided Mashwede Holdings on April 5 last year and got away with over US$100 000, R42 000, $14 000 worth of fuel coupons, firearms and 20 live rounds of ammunition.
Police said the two have more than five warrant of arrests outstanding,warrant of arrests for the suspects were cancelled in unclear circumstances.
Investigations have so far revealed that in 2019, Musafare, Liberty and Leona were first arrested in the city after committing three cases of unlawful entry and armed robbery targeting clothing, electrical gadgets and gas shops.
In one of the cases, the trio are suspected to have attacked a reaction team form a local security firm after they had break into one of the shops in the city before disappearing.
Their lucky ran out however, when a police crack team which was making a follow up of another armed robbery case arrested Musafare, Liberty and Leona at a house in Glen Norah B. Police then recovered some of the clothes and goods that had been stolen in some of the shops in the city.
They appeared in court and later released on bail.
However, before their trial commenced in March last year, Musafare and Liberty went into hiding. The matter is still pending before the courts and only Leona and Liberty are reported to have been attending the trial case while Musafare has been on the run.
Musafare, Takawira and their other accomplices then raided Mashwede Holdings.
Musafare was later arrested in Murambinda, Buhera where he was staying with a girlfriend before he was transported back to the city. He has however been in and out of prison after released on bail.
Sources close to the investigations have been expressing concern over the manner in which some of these criminals are being granted bail saying in most cases they would abscond trial to avoid the strong risk of a long jail term.
“We are deeply concerned about such matters where when we arrest a group of suspected armed robbers, some of them would apply for bail pending appeal and later released leaving their accomplices in prison.
“It will take time because those who will be attending the trial would in most cases be pointing fingers to the accused persons that had been released,” said a senior police officer close to the investigations.
He urged the courts to ensure that these suspected armed robbers should not be released until the matter is finalised. Also in most cases, if such cases took long, witnesses will be frustrated and they end up not attending the trials.
In August last year, Musafare Mupamhanga’s other accomplice, Spicer Takawira was granted $250 000 bail by the High Court. Takawira was asked to post the unusually high amount as bail after he failed to provide surety in the form of an immovable property.
He first appeared before Justice Webster Chinamora in May last year seeking bail on changed circumstances on the basis that his co-accused, Cornwell Kasambarare, was granted bail by another judge.
In February, Spicer Takawira was also arrested on charges of house breaking and theft. Takawira was arrested after he had gone to report in fulfilment of bail conditions set when he was released on bail pending appeal over other matters.
The arrest came after detectives from CID arrested Takawira’s alleged accomplice, identified as Leo Mandaza (40) of Kuwadzana Extension for a spate of unlawful entry and theft cases.
Mandaza is facing seven counts and he and four accomplices, including Takawira and three others who are still at large, are accused of targeting homes and premises in and around Highfield, Glen Norah and Workington in Harare.
In July 2019, four suspected armed robbers, including Kasambarare and Musafare Mupamhanga allegedly pounced on three men who were parked in the Avenues area in Harare while counting their cash in a car and went away with more than US$70 000, $1 600 bond and other valuables. The robbers, went on a shopping spree and bought vehicles, allegedly using the stolen money.
Elisha Munhanga (53), Kasambarare, Liberty Mupamhanga and Musafare Mupamhanga were later arrested by police.
Recently, law officer Arthur Bosha was accused of consenting to bail for suspected armed robber Musafare Mupanhanga without consulting his bosses.
In consenting to bail, Bosha is said to have disregarded standard operating procedures of the Attorney General’s Office (Criminal Division), which dictate that applications and bail alterations should be done through the Area Public Prosecutor or the Public Prosecutor in Charge in consultation with the Chief Law Officer.
According to basic procedures laid down in the November 16, 2020 all consents to bail by prosecutors are to be approved by their superiors.
Another, prosecutor Tapiwa Kasema was also arrested for consenting to bail to four other notorious armed robbers including Taj Abdul.
The robbers were rearrested on other charges before they could be released on bail. The Herald