Samuel Kadungure and Julia N’andu
DETECTIVES in Rusape have arrested two suspects believed to be part of six-member gang of armed robbers who pounced at Mavhudzi High School a fortnight ago and brutally attacked 11 employees after failing to open the school safe.
The robbers, who were armed with two guns and various other weapons, stole a Pajero Mini belonging to Benjamin Machacha, looted cash, cellphones and other valuables from the victims valued at $6 000.
The stolen vehicle was later recovered in Gutu where it was abandoned. So vicious was the attack that left the victims with serious injuries. Some of the injured were rushed to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare for specialised treatment after being attacked with axe handles and blunt objects in an attempt to cow them into submission.
The victims could hardly walk as their ankles and knee joints were hit with blunt objects and some bled profusely from chopped finger wounds. The suspects, George Chikwature (35) and Bernard Kudakwashe Mukwazhi – both of no fixed abode – were on Wednesday hauled before Rusape provincial magistrate, Mr Shame Kubonera, on armed robbery charges.
They were advised to apply for bail at the High Court in Harare since they were facing a Third Schedule offence and will be back in court on June 14 for routine remand. Officer Commanding Rusape District, Chief Superintendent Garikai Gwangwawa, told The Manica Post on Wednesday that two suspects were arrested in Kadoma on Monday. “We have two suspects in custody in connection with the Mavhudzi Government High School armed robbery. We picked the two suspects in Kadoma and they are assisting police with investigations,” said Chief Supt Gwangwawa.
He refused to disclose their names, saying police were zeroing on the fugitive members of the gang. He appealed to members of the public with information on the operations and whereabouts of the gang to contact CID Rusape or any nearest police station. Mavhudzi head, Mr Elliot Chimbade said only one victim – Takudzwa Mudzuka – who sustained a skull depression after being attacked with an iron bar on the head was still in hospital, while his colleagues were recovering at home.
“It is a marvel if they have made a break-through. We hope the matter will be brought to finality with the arrest of the entire gang. All the victims are better except Takudzwa Mudzuka –a student teacher who was transferred to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. He had a successful operation on his depressed head and is responding well to treatment. We had 11 victims and the other 10 are better, but still on sick leave,” said Mr Chimbade, adding that the school was taking necessary measures to improve security.
The hair splitting robbery occurred when the six robbers who were armed with two guns, rounded up four security guards on duty before tricking three other kitchen staff members who had reported for duty. Two armed criminals approached a security guard manning the main gate and ordered him to unlock the gate. When the guard told them that the keys were kept by his supervisor, one of the robbers with a Mossberg, cocked the rifle threatening to shoot him. Three more robbers emerged from within the school premises and manhandled the guard.
Three other guards heard the commotion from the guardroom and proceeded to investigate, but were also captured and assaulted by the gang. The four guards were force-marched to the school head’s office where the door was forcibly opened using a sharp object.
Their hands tied with ropes. The robbers also rounded three other workers as they reported for duty before going to the residents’ quarters looking for keys to the safe. They left in a huff after one of the victims screamed for help. In an unrelated case, two Harare men masqueraded as members of Mavhudzi High School Development Committee and defrauded Mutare businessmen of goods worth about $10 000. Neverson Rusere (41) of Block 7A, 13 Nenyere Flats, Mbare and Lawrence Chidovi (42) of House Number 164, Glen Norah A, Harare, denied the fraud charges when they appeared before Mutare magistrate, Mr Innocent Bepura recently.
The case goes for trial on June 12. Public prosecutor, Mr Fletcher Karombe, said the two together with an accomplice only identified as Lloyd who is still at large phoned Mantray Investments on May 17 purporting to be members of Mavhudzi High SDC who wanted to buy 300 IRB iron sheets on behalf of the school using an RTGS transfer. They were later given an account number by personnel at Mantray Investments after they had agreed on the price.
“On May 20, Rusere and Chidovi approached a sales representative at Mantray, Mr Blessing Sithole at his workplace and informed him that they had come to collect the iron sheets that were ordered by Lloyd on behalf of Mavhudzi High School through an RTGS transfer from Standard Chartered Bank, Rusape Branch. “On May 22, Sithole followed up on the RTGS transfer, but nothing was reflecting in the company’s bank account. He discovered that the Standard Chartered Bank’s Rusape Branch had long been closed. They were arrested on May 25 after police received a tip-off that they were in Harare,” said Mr Karombe.
After their arrest, it emerged that the same gang had used the same modus operandi to defraud Drum City Private Limited on February 7. It is alleged that Rusere and Lloyd phoned Drum City’s sales manager, Mr Adam Tapfumaneyi and told him that they wanted to buy tyres from the company.
Mr Karombe said Lloyd said he was the manager of J&W Trucking based in Chiredzi and he wanted to buy the tyres on behalf of the company through an RTGS transfer. “They agreed on the price and Rusere proceeded to collect the tyres worth $1 230 and nothing was recovered,” said Mr Karombe. The court also heard that on May 5, Lloyd went to A-Line Hardware and misrepresented to the hardware’s director, Mr Ghumra Nazir Ahmed that he was an SDC member from Mavhudzi High School and wanted to buy 100 IRB iron sheets through RTGS. They agreed on the transaction.
Total value of the property stolen is $9 840 and nothing was recovered.