By Thupeyo Muleya
Two Zimbabwean armed robbers and their South African accomplice were on Saturday re-arrested by police in the neighbouring country following a shootout after they had escaped while being taken to court.
Clifford Mutonhori and John Fine, both Zimbabweans and Figos Madisha, a South African were re-arrested near the city of Polokwane along the N1 highway.
The accused persons along with Denis Hove who is still at large ran away after overpowering and disarming a police officer along the R101 road south of Polokwane.
The incident occurred while the accused persons were being moved from Polokwane to Mokopane for sentencing on a charge of armed robbery, which they committed in 2019.
Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said Madisha, Mutonhori, and Fine were re-arrested on Saturday after hijacking two commercial trucks.
“Two truck hijackings that took place along the N1 road on two consecutive days, one on Thursday night, 22 July 2021, next to the area where these convicted criminals escaped and the other on Friday 23 July 2021 at Nyl Plaza, led to the dramatic re-arrest of the escapees,” he said.
Brig Mojapelo said four suspects fitting the description of the ones who earlier escaped from the police van along the R101 road south of Polokwane allegedly hijacked a truck and later abandoned it at Ysyerberg on the N1 road.
“The same suspects allegedly hijacked another truck the next day at Nyl Plaza toll gate and drove it towards Modimolle, with the victims inside. The truck hit one of the barricades at Kranskop tollgate and the suspects jumped off and fled into the bushes,” he said.
Brig Mojapelo said a well-co-ordinated search operation involving members of the Limpopo Highway Patrol (LHP), SAPS Airwing, several SAPS Units, members from the neighbouring stations assisted by trackers from the Heritage Protection Group (HPG), Private Pilot and ordinary community members led to the apprehension of the fleeing suspects.
He said one of the escapees allegedly shot at the police when he was spotted, prompting the police to return fire.
The official said the man was found on top of a tree later during a search in the area.
“He was immediately arrested. The other two suspects were arrested in the vicinity. A search operation continued and a police firearm that was stolen during the escape was recovered in the bushes,” said Brig Mojapelo.
The four suspects were facing several cases of armed robberies and possession of illegal firearms that were allegedly committed along the N1 road under Belabela, Modimolle, Mookgopong, and Mokopane policing areas, targeting motorists. The Chronicle