BY RUMBIDZAYI NGWENYA

PEEVED police are throwing the kitchen sink at the country’s surging violent crime, revealing yesterday that they have deployed crack teams nationwide to hunt down armed robbers ahead of the festive season.

A fed up national police spokesperson Paul Nyathi warned that law enforcement agents would not be “showing any mercy” to perpetrators of violent crime.

This comes amid a worrying spike in armed robberies around the country, and especially in Harare and Bulawayo, which in some cases have involved people with security backgrounds.

“Armed robberies have been going up and we are determined to end them. We have deployed crack teams around the country to nail the robbers. We will be merciless,” Nyathi said.

“Between January and October this year, about 922 cases of robberies were reported nationally, compared to 734 during the same period in 2020.

“On our part, we have arrested 849 suspects of which some of the cases are still at the courts and some accused have been given bail. Some have been remanded in custody and some  convicted,” he added.

Nyathi also urged citizens to make use of police hot-lines and suggestion boxes to report suspicious activities in their communities.

In addition, he also warned Zimbabweans that they would remain at the mercy of armed criminals as long as they continued to keep large sums of money outside financial institutions.

“What we are also saying to the public is, please seriously take heed of our call where we are saying people should not keep large sums of money at home.

“We want to urge companies and individuals to also seriously consider putting adequate security measures in place and avoiding doing things that robbers will take advantage of,” Nyathi further told the Daily News.

All this comes as the spike in armed robberies in the country has spooked both authorities and ordinary citizens.

Presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, recently warned that police would not simply “confront armed robbers with handcuffs” — adding that “we just pay back in the same way they call”.

“We have seen a very disturbing trend of armed robberies … Most of it is traceable to our neighbourhood … and this means that it is happening across borders in other words. These are not foreigners. These are our own citizens who have been staying outside the country and in the process have taken wrong habits and are trying it here,” Charamba told the Daily News’s sister paper, the Daily News On Sunday.

“Generally the cases of armed robberies are in mining areas … which means there is a link between gold mining, gold smuggling, sales and armed crime.

“We are upping our act and taking very strong action in respect of those criminals. It is foreign to us.

“It is unwanted, and it will never be entertained. Let all those who are engaged in those acts know that their days are numbered,” Charamba added.

This also comes as the country continues to witness the rising phenomenon of break-ins at homes and business premises.

Last week, there were three major robberies where valuables and cash amounting to US$90 000 were stolen.

In one case, eight armed robbers attacked two security guards at Atlas 16 Gold Mine and stole 130kg of pregnant gold carbon worth about US$62 000.

On the same day in Bulawayo, a truck driver was robbed of property worth US$1 440 after he had a breakdown at Umguza Bridge, along the Harare-Bulawayo Road.

In another case, five armed bandits pounced on Sonking Resources in Kadoma where they attacked nine people who lived at the company premises.

The robbers tied up the victims and shot one of them on the armpit, while demanding cash. They also ransacked the offices and went away with a CCTV server, a cell phone and US$25 000 in cash.

And in a case that continues to hog the limelight, three heavily-armed robbers were shot dead by a well-known former senior policeman-turned-lawyer, Joseph Nemaisa, in Harare last Monday — after they stormed his home and held his terrified family hostage.

Nemaisa, once part of the police’s Homicide Department who spent decades fighting violent crime in the country, also revealed that he had survived heavy gunfire from the robbers.

Police have since revealed that among the deceased robbers were two soldiers and a suspect in an earlier US$2,7 million heist, who was on bail.

Law enforcement agents have also since apprehended the other two robbers who appeared in court on Thursday, as it emerged that one of them was also a retired officer from the police para-military Support Unit group.

It has also since emerged that Nemaisa was not the target of the robbery, but a businesswoman who lived close to the ex-cop’s home.

This came out after the arrest of Shine Tanaka Nyamhunga, who allegedly gave the robbers information to the effect that his employer — who stays about four houses away from Nemaisa — kept huge sums of money at home.

Police said that Nyamhunga was allegedly in constant touch with one of the deceased robbers, Tariro Gora, as he sought to have his employer attacked.

However, the scheme went horribly wrong after the robbers went to Nemaisa’s house — who ended up gunning down Brian Koga Tendere, Charles Chirara and Gora.

Last month, armed robbers got away with more than US$300 000 and two firearms after they ambushed a Fawcett Security Company cash-in-transit van along the Harare-Bulawayo highway.

Police investigations later revealed that the robbers were aided by a Fawcett employee in the case.

The heist was similar to a January 6 robbery in which bandits got away with a staggering US$2,7 million belonging to a local bank, after conniving with one of the cash-in-transit van’s drivers.

So far, police have managed to apprehend 11 suspects involved in that robbery which took place at the Gwebi Bridge, along the Harare-Chirundu highway.

Police have offered a US$5 000 reward to any information that could help apprehend the heist’s alleged masterminds — Patson Matengambiri, Shadreck Njowa and Nyasha Chitera — who have remained at large since the heist.

Speaking in June, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said authorities would hammer armed robbers and drug peddlers as the government fights to create a safe and prosperous Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is particularly witnessing a surge in armed robberies in Bulawayo and Harare.

In May, a petrol attendant was shot in the chest as thieves targeted Flo Garage in Tshabalala Suburb in Bulawayo.

Prior to that, armed robbers had also attacked a cash-in-transit van collecting money from a Choppies Supermarket in the second city, before driving away with more than US$11 000.

Also in Bulawayo, a 33-year-old female employee at a Liquor Supplies outlet located at Ascot Shopping Centre was also shot dead after robbers stormed the store.

In March, robbers also pounced on a bureau de-change in Bulawayo’s central business district where they got away with an undisclosed amount of money and hijacked a rapid response vehicle belonging to a security company. – Daily News.