HARARE – Twelve members of the 14-member gang of armed robbers that reigned terror at mines and business premises before they were busted in August 2015, leading to the recovery of an assortment of artillery, were convicted yesterday.
Simbarashe Tavengwa, 37, Ngonidzashe Mutiba, 36, Tinashe Chikara, 49, Titus Chatukuta, 35, Ray Shangari, 35, Tinashe Matinyenya, 28, Wilson Kaneta, 33, Khumbulani Ncube, 35, Mgcini Ramachela, 33, Charles Nyandoro, 53, Rodwell Mutunya, 34, Takafa Vumbunu, 33, face up to life imprisonment following their conviction on charges of armed robbery and contravening the Firearms and Explosives Act.
Harare regional magistrate Hosea Mujaya acquitted Doubty Mharadze, 39, and Happymore Muchenje, 23, accused of selling out some of their victims to the terror gang. The regional magistrate said the State had failed to prove a prima facie case against them.
He ruled that the rest of the gang had acted in common purpose and convicted each of them on eight counts.
Mujaya delivered the judgment in a five-day continuous roll after hearing evidence of 40 witnesses in a trial that took 14 months to be completed.
“The State managed to prove that this was a well-orchestrated crime and that the accused persons acted in common purpose in all circumstances,” Mujaya ruled.
“The third accused person (Chikara) benefited and was the coordinator and ringleader who provided motor vehicles, a hideout farm, storage space for spoils and fire arms used.”
Prosecutor Michael Reza applied to have the sentencing postponed to July 17, because he “needed to do some serious digging on the convicts’ previous convictions some of which had been confirmed by the police.”
“Tavengwa, Mutiba, Chikara, Nyandoro and Mutunya have previous convictions. The court should have it on record that Tavengwa committed these offences he has been convicted of while he was actually on bail pending appeal over an armed robbery case in which he had been sentenced to 30 years imprisonment by a Bulawayo court,” Reza said.
In what could probably rank among the police’s recent success stories, a crack team pounced on the gang at their hide-out at a 22-roomed farmhouse in Darwendale — a small town located about 62 kilometres west of the capital city — leading to the arrest of the suspects.
Police recovered an AK 47 assault rifle, three Noringo pistols with live rounds of ammunition, one Lama pistol, another Noringo pistol without bullets, a vector pistol with five rounds, axes, iron bars and spikes, which they reportedly used against their victims.
All the recovered guns had their serial numbers erased, making it difficult for investigators to trace their origins.