Freeman Razemba and Thupeyo Muleya
Police have arrested Zimbabwe’s seven most wanted armed robbers, including the notorious Musa Taj Abdul, commonly known as Salim Rahman (46) who had dramatically evaded police for close to two decades.
A Beitbridge police officer who was allegedly harbouring the robbers was also arrested.
Abdul was arrested in dramatic fashion in Beitbridge on Monday night, with dog teams playing a leading role, along with former Masvingo Central police officer Rudolf Kanhanga alias Tapiwa Munatsi (29), Beitbridge-based police officer Tapiwa Mangoma alias Tapa (27), Liberty Mupamhanga (29), Prince Makodza (31), Godfrey Mupamhanga (27), Charles Lundu (47), and Innocent Jairos (32), all of Harare.
The gang is linked to a number of armed robberies, including the famous Mashwede case in Harare recently.
Police swooped on the seven suspected robbers and their police officer host in the Mashavire area, now known as Tshitaudze suburbs.
The Herald is reliably informed that the suspects were caught unawares by a team of detectives, duty uniform police, Support Unit and the canine unit. A police source close to the case said the dogs had to be used to help arrest the suspects and police were forced to fire warning shots.
“Abdul, Mupamhanga, Makodza, Lundu and Munatsi incurred some injuries from dog bites during a tussle with the police. They were taken to Beitbridge District Hospital for treatment and their condition is stable,” said the official.
Police officer commanding Beitbridge, Chief Superintendent Tichaona Nyongo, yesterday confirmed the arrest but referred further questions to national police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi.
Asst Comm Nyathi confirmed the arrests and said investigations were still in progress.
“The gang was arrested while hiding at a certain house and tried to scale precast walls while trying to escape with police officers in hot pursuit, assisted by ZRP canine section, and firing warning shots to effect arrests on the armed robbers,” he said.
A statement released by Beitbridge police said the suspects had arrived in Beitbridge at the invitation of their point man, Mangoma, a police officer in the border town.
“They were using a silver BMW and they intended to rob a house in the Mashavire area but were stopped before hitting the target when police detectives received a tip-off. These suspects are also wanted persons in Harare in connection with over five armed robberies including the Mashwede, Makoni Shopping Centre, Blue Circle, Glen Norah B safe and the Marlborough shoot-out murder and many other armed robbery cases around Zimbabwe,” reads the statement.
A silver Noringo pistol with an obliterated serial number and a magazine with 11 live rounds, 19×12 bore gauge live rounds in a webbing belt placed in a black satchel stashed in a washing basket, and a pair of number plates AEX 1577 were recovered from the suspects.
In addition, a black face mask (balaclava) was found stashed in their getaway car.
A team of detectives tracked the suspects to Mangoma’s house near Mashakada Business Centre in Beitbridge after police spotted Carrington Marasha driving the vehicle around the same business centre.
When the crack team arrived at Mangoma’s house, the suspects ran in different directions, scaling the precast wall, prompting police officers to fire warning shots and setting police dogs to subdue them, until they were finally arrested.
Abdul is believed to be the chief architect of a spate of armed robberies committed in Zimbabwe between August last year and this month.
In South Africa, Abdul is thought to have been arrested several times but released with the help of his police connections.
In March, five armed robbers were killed in a shootout with police along Glenara Avenue South in Harare, while three others were captured alive but the gang leader, another Abdul (alias Musa Mahommed or Kedha), made good his escape.
He was initially reported to be among the five dead robbers, but it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.
The three dead Zimbabweans were identified as Dennis Stanley Dube alias Dingola (29), Taurai Chitepo (36) and another only identified as Johnson.
Three survivors of the shootout — Godfrey Mupamhanga (27), Prince Zakeo (25) and Maxwell Stanley alias Dennis Mateta (25) — were arrested on nine counts of armed robbery.
The breaking up of both suspected robbery gangs and the arrest or death of most of their members is likely to slash Zimbabwe’s armed robbery rates.