Temba Dube, Sunday News Reporter
A FIVE-MAN gang allegedly carjacked a pirate taxi driver, axed him and left him for dead before using his vehicle to rob an illegal money changer of more than R75 000 in assorted currencies.
Police have arrested three suspects following the heist on Tuesday. The police Vehicle Theft Squad (VTS) arrested Venson Nzima (22) of Pumula East, Africa Ncube (24) of Lobengula West, Anisto Nyoni (22) of Emganwini the following day and recovered the stolen car — a Toyota Starlet.
The detectives have spread a dragnet for Farai Moses Chitsa (37) whose last known address is A6297 Pumula Old and Elton Nzima of 72018 Lobengula West. Fellow pirate taxi drivers told the Sunday News that the five hired Mr Onisimo Matanga near Alasco Supermarket in the city centre around 5pm.
“They asked him to take them to a shopping centre along Old Gwanda Road,” said the source.
“When they were about to get to the shops they asked the driver to stop. One of them grabbed him by the neck from the back seat and others began punching him and striking him with a small axe. They also hit him with a hammer.”
The gang, added the source, demanded cash and threatened to kill Mr Matanga if he resisted. They allegedly robbed him of an unspecified amount of cash and his cellphone. The criminals pushed a heavily bleeding Mr Matanga out of the vehicle and sped off in his vehicle. A pirate taxi driver who identified himself as Mr Sam Ncube said Mr Matanga staggered to the shops where a passersby called an ambulance and made a police report.
“He was treated at UBH (United Bulawayo Hospitals) and discharged the following day. His condition is said to be stable but he is refusing to receive visitors,” said the taxi driver.
Mr Matanga’s brother, who declined to be named, said Onisimo was out when the news crew visited his home in Barham Green suburb. He was also not at work in the city centre. Onisimo could not be contacted on his mobile phone because it was stolen.
The robbers allegedly drove to the city centre where they started shadowing Ms Annie Usavi, an usiphatheleni (money changer). Ms Usavi yesterday said they tailed her to Pumula South suburb and deliberately side swiped her car.
“Three of the gangsters jumped out of the vehicle and pretended to assist me. I got out of my car and they attacked me,” said Mrs Usavi who appeared to be still shaken by the incident.
“They punched me and grabbed my handbag. I couldn’t resist because they were too strong. The bag contained R55 000, $1 320, P7 600, two Samsung cellphones and personal stuff,” she said.
Ms Usavi said she stood by the roadside in shock as the gang drove away.
“I could not believe I had been robbed where there was still so much traffic, a stone throw from my house. I’m still feeling pain on my face and upper body. The robbers looked mean enough to kill me,” she said.
Fortunately, Ms Usavi said, she recognised one of her attackers. She said she got into her car and drove to Pumula Police Station in a daze.
“I made a report. The police arrested the man I had identified and I’m told he implicated the others. Detectives recovered some of my money and property from all three suspects’ homes,” said Ms Usavi.
A source close to investigations said police recovered R9 700 and $160. Ms Usavi said the arrested trio alleged Chitsa had the bulk of the money. Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector precious Simango confirmed the robberies.
“Police have arrested three men who are suspected to have been part of a five-man gang that allegedly carjacked a taxi driver and used his car to rob a Pumula South woman. Two suspects are on the run,” said Insp Simango.
She appealed to members of the public who may have information that could lead to the arrest of the duo to contact their nearest police station.
“Alternatively, they can put the information in a police suggestion box or call (09) 885479 the 24-hour police hotline,” said the police spokesperson.