Dr Masimba Mavaza
A series of robberies in homes and highways in Zimbabwe have stoked fears in the diaspora community planning to return home for holidays.
Local media reports say as many as 200 families in Zimbabwe have been robbed in their homes since October 20, 2021.
The latest case is that of a family robbed while on their way from Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
In each case, the gunmen pointed their weapons at victims’ heads, tied them up and ransacked houses, apparently looking for money, gold, and any valuables.
Police and prosecutors have not publicly linked the home invasions to diaspora.
A security firm owner Mr Mabhandi advised expats to “think very carefully about immersing themselves in local Zimbabwe culture in a rural community when they haven’t been back that much”.
Some gangs are known to wait until retired people get their pensions before striking, while others tail them in rental cars from airports and rob them once they reach their destination.
Undercover police officers patrol airports on the hunt for corrupt baggage handlers or taxi drivers, who have been known to tip off gangs about new arrivals returning to live in Zimbabwe.
One such gang was led by a police officer and convicted several years ago of 20 robberies, all involving returning residents.
The gang was suspected of committing many more crimes over the course of a decade.
“Once returning residents come back they need support. They work so hard, buy these nice houses all over the place. Some of the houses are in remote areas. They need security, put up alarms, cameras and have dogs.
“If you’re from Britain, the US or Canada, you’re seen as having money, workmen agree with you one price, but they think you can surely afford another – that’s what caused the grievance.
“People need to be aware of their security, but there definitely should be a lot more communication with those thinking of returning.”
Zimbabwe experiences twice as many robberies in an average year than Britain, even though the UK has a population 20 times higher.
There are many families who have been torn apart as a result of armed robbery.
Some in the Diaspora say they are scared to even go back home as a result of this.
There are victims who have suffered physically and emotionally, and it is about time the courts of law take serious actions to eradicate this disease.
Martin Ncube, a former criminal investigation department (CID) member, now residing in the UK said: “Corruption is part of the reason why armed robbery is increasing. Until such practice within the force is completely removed, it is going to be hard for armed robbery to decrease.”
Contrasting what Ncube said David Goba another former Zimbabwean detective said:
“There are also some reports that security agencies are doing their work to combat armed robbery. They must continue their work and give the general public confidence that they are safe all the time.”
“Zimbabwe needs investors from other countries and must do better to combat armed robbery.
“Armed robberies send wrong signals that investments would not be protected,” a Zimbabwean businessman in England said.
Commenting on the call for shoot to kill by some Zimbabweans, Muchaneta Chikonororo said: “This might sound like human rights abuse, but maybe if Parliament makes a law where one hand of each armed robber is amputated as their punishment just as it is done in some parts of the Middle East, it will send a serious message.
“Also the same punishment should be given to those who defile girls as young as two years of age. How despicable is that? Those armed robbers should be put out for good and leave Zimbabweans to enjoy their good lives with no fear.”
Mirirai Mapfumo from Derby United Kingdom said: “Our sweat and toil becomes some armed robbers’ gains. Our children become prey to some hopeless adults who need to be given 200 lashes with iron rods.”
The airport road robberies while receiving very little press attention are prevalent.
The robbers are often allegedly tipped by some airport workers while others are tipped by the relatives of the passengers.
The robbers are a menace to all. They are tormenting everybody regardless of your residential status.
The diaspora is assured that the robberies are not targeted on them only.