By Blessings Mashaya
FED up police warned yesterday that they will be throwing the kitchen sink at criminals, amid an alarming surge in armed robberies in Zimbabwe.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, in the wake of yet another daring armed robbery in Bulawayo at the weekend, an irate police national spokesperson Paul Nyathi reiterated that law enforcement agents would not rule out invoking a shoot-to-kill policy to deal with the worsening cases of violent crime in the country.
“I want to assure all Zimbabweans that as long as these armed robbers continue to cause chaos in the country, we will not stand by. We will make sure that we respond accordingly.
“To be clear, police will respond to any situation based on the obtaining circumstances, and if criminals decide to be violent, then they should expect to get an appropriate response,” he said.
Nyathi also said police were worried by the many individuals and companies who continued to keep large sums of money, usually in foreign currency, at their premises — a situation that he said was contributing to the high robbery rates.
“Most of these high-profile robbery cases … involve insiders who supply information. If you look at the recent bank robbery case in Bulawayo, and the one which occurred over the weekend, there are clear indications that these suspects had inside information.
“The police have got crack teams which are on the ground. In some cases arrests have been effected.
“We are making some leads which I can’t reveal at the moment, but definitely in the next couple of days and weeks you will see some arrests being effected,” Nyathi said of the two recent Bulawayo robberies which happened in broad daylight.
He also said some of the robberies involved both locally and South African-based Zimbabweans — although most of the cases involved locals.
“Most of the perpetrators are locals. The issue of people keeping money at home and business premises is fuelling the rising cases of armed robbers.
“One of the observations that we have made as the police is that these criminals either befriend the employees or befriend someone who has got inside information on how a particular individual or business conducts its business.
“We always implore companies and individuals to always be very suspicious of people who mingle around their premises.
“We have also advised companies on how their CCTVs can be secured, so that if they are tampered with, information or evidence cannot be destroyed,” Nyathi further told the Daily News.
This comes after Nyathi also warned recently that police would consider invoking a shoot-to-kill policy, to deal with the worsening cases of violent crime in the country, especially those involving armed robbers.
Speaking in June on fast growing independent national television station 3Ktv’s widely-followed current affairs programme, Vantage, Nyathi said rising armed robberies demanded that law enforcement agents acted even more decisively against the perpetrators than before.
“Even President Emmerson Mnangagwa has expressed concern over violent crimes, especially robbery cases, where he called upon all stakeholders to put shoulder to the wheel and fight the robbery cases.
“As we conduct investigations in some of these robbery cases, and as we attend to reports of these armed robbery cases, each situation will determine how the police will react.
“That I want to assure Zimbabweans. And I want to give a warning, armed robbers should not think that the police will fold their hands as they are committing crime,” Nyathi told 3Ktv.
Without saying if police were ready to invoke the shoot-to-kill policy then, Nyathi also said law enforcement agents were very disturbed by rising cases of robbers firing at police officers pursuing them.
“We have had shoot-outs with robbers in Zimbabwe and it’s on record. The media has covered these cases.
“We had shoot-outs in Bulawayo where some of the robbers died, and unfortunately we also lost a police officer in that shoot out incident last year.
“We had shoot-outs in Harare, where some of the robbers also died. We also had shoot-outs in Kwekwe, Mutare and …. Shamva,” Nyathi revealed.
All this also comes as Mnangagwa has declared war on armed robbers and ritual murderers, saying law enforcement agents must decisively deal with such violent criminals.
“I am … concerned about the rising cases of armed robberies and ritual murders occurring in our country.
“I, thus, exhort stakeholders in the criminal justice to speedily deal with these emerging negative trends in our society,” he said.
To this end, authorities have been engaging South Africa and other neighbouring countries, in a bid to mitigate worsening violent crime in the region.
Last month, armed robbers raided a security company truck which was delivering cash at a money transfer agency shop along Herbert Chitepo Avenue in Bulawayo.
The robbers made off with US$100 000 and R500 000 in cash. The matter is still under investigation.
Armed robbers also later robbed a local bank in Bulawayo and got away with US$70 000 and R76 000.
The robbers, who had been in a queue pretending to be clients, forced cashiers to hand over cash to them before they escaped.
At the weekend, armed robbers pounced on a money transfer outlet in Bulawayo’s CBD and snatched US$6 270 plus R5 000 in cash.
Business came to a standstill in the city centre after police cordoned off the area to search the building, as they suspected that the robbers were still holed-up in the building.
However, the robbers had already escaped.
The increasing cases of armed robberies in the country have raised major concern that this could get out of hand if authorities don’t descend heavily on the bandits involved.
In December last year, three heavily-armed robbers were shot dead in Harare by a well-known former senior policeman-turned lawyer, Joseph Nemaisa, after they stormed his home and held his terrified family hostage.
Nemaisa, once head of the police’s Homicide Department who spent decades fighting violent crime in the country, said he had survived heavy gunfire from the robbers.
In November of the same year, armed robbers got away with more than US$300 000 and two firearms after they ambushed a Fawcett Security 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 2021 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.
The police later managed to apprehend 11 suspects involved in that robbery which took place at the Gwebi Bridge along the Harare-Chirundu highway. – Daily News