The Sunday Mail
CASES of individuals and businesses losing large amounts of money and valuable property to armed robbers are on the rise.
In worst instances, precious lives have been lost.
The case of a 62-year-old Marondera businessman who was shot dead and his wife critically wounded during a robbery a few days ago comes to mind.
The family’s home was invaded by armed robbers, who stole US$7 910 and a mobile phone.
Police have since arrested seven suspects in connection with the killing and several other armed robbery cases.
What is worrying, though, is that people continue to move around or keep large sums of money at their homes and workplaces.
According to the police, most of the break-ins and cash-in-transit heists are “an inside job”.
Criminals are getting tip-offs before they pounce on their unsuspecting targets.
About a fortnight ago, within a short period, police recorded a spate of armed robberies that saw individuals and businesses losing cash amounting to about US$500 000.
Vehicles, cellphones and laptops, among other items, were also stolen.
According to the authorities, break-ins at houses and business premises, as well as cash-in-transit robberies, have become common.
Information privy to The Sunday Mail Society shows that there were at least 695 armed robbery cases recorded from January to June this year, compared to 640 in the same period in 2021.
Robbers are taking advantage of the public’s lack of confidence in the formal banking system.
Theresa Madongo, an informal trader operating in Highfield, said she has never opened a bank account in her six years of trade.
“I don’t feel comfortable doing so. The bank charges are too high. Instead of making profit, I end up losing my hard-earned cash to the banks,” she argued.
Her colleague, who specialises in second-hand clothes, weighed in: “There are several reasons we prefer keeping our money at home. For instance, I don’t have a registered company, and I illegally deal in second-hand clothes (mabhero). How will I explain my income if the authorities are to approach me? Also, it seems easy to deposit money but withdrawing it is a challenge. You will be asked a lot of questions.”
Some individuals cited the inconveniences caused by long queues at banking halls.
However, the police have urged the public to make use of banks and invest in security systems to keep danger at bay.
“We implore businesspeople and the general public to avoid moving around with a lot of money. They should also avoid keeping large sums at either residential or business premises. They must also invest in security systems to reduce the risk of losing their valuables to criminals and, at the same time, hire credible employees.
“This includes installation of alarm systems, CCTVs or any other technology that enhances security at business premises or homes. It is also important for employers to properly vet security and other employees.
“It has come to our attention that at times businesses are employing people with questionable backgrounds, who end up ganging up with criminals to commit crimes such as armed robberies,” said police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi.
He added that the police have since stepped up efforts in the fight against robbery, and issued stern warnings to criminals.
“Most of these robberies were carried out using unregistered weapons. The Zimbabwe Republic Police continue to round up the perpetrators. A crack team has been set up through resources mobilised by President Mnangagwa.”
Asst Comm Nyathi also attributed the surge in armed robbery cases to an influx of unlicensed firearms, as well as individuals and institutions that are not properly securing their weapons, resulting in them falling into wrong hands.
Government issued a firearms amnesty that expired on September 30.
At least 455 firearms and 260 rounds of ammunition had been voluntarily surrendered by September 21.
Financial expert and economist Mr Persistence Gwanyanya reckons the surge in crime rates is mostly a reflection of the cash-based structure of our economy.
Mr Gwanyanya said there is “a lot of money sloshing” in the informal sectors of the economy due to the multiple currency system in place.
“As Zimbabwe continues to receive huge sums of foreign currency from exports and remittances, the ordinary person has more access to foreign currency than before. For example, remittances, which were averaging US$100 million per month in the past, have surged to US$130 million,” he said.
“As confidence levels are still low, owing to the historical experiences of hyperinflation and losses made following currency reforms, there are still considerable sums of money kept outside the banking system. The urge to keep money outside the formal banking system was boosted by a surge in parallel market activities.”
Mr Gwanyanya, however, said the progress made thus far in stabilising the local currency was a huge incentive to improve formal banking.
“We are likely to see increased foreign currency banking as durable stability is attained.”
He also opines that the central bank will revise some regulations to encourage increased flows of foreign currency in the formal system.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president, Mr Kurai Matsheza, called for a change in approach, especially among businesspeople if heists are to be reduced.
“As CZI, we represent an organised group of people. As I speak, no robbery reports have ever been made of any owner or chief executive officer of a manufacturing company.
“Remember, when operating in a proper way, the owner of a company does not hold any money. There are people who are trained and employed to do that job. Therefore, not even one of our members can be found with huge sums of money at home. Money is kept at the banks and nowhere else,” said the CZI president.
Spate of crime
On September 15, a man lost a Toyota Hilux, US$14 000 and two mobile phones to two armed robbers who attacked him after they had blocked his vehicle with two cars at the intersection of Lomagundi Road and Harare Drive around midnight.
The same week, armed robbers pounced on Fidelity Building in Bulawayo and got away with US$6 270 and $5 000.
Another five-armed gang pounced on CBZ Bank’s Fife Street branch in Bulawayo and stole US$70 000.
In another case, Mukuru branch in Bulawayo was robbed of more than US$100 000 after an armed gang pounced on the premises in broad daylight.
Last week, a police crack team, led by Criminal Investigations Department detectives, arrested a gang of five robbers linked to a Mt Pleasant robbery. Investigations have revealed they were involved in six other cases in which they used similar tactics.
In Mt Pleasant, Harare, a family lost a Toyota Fortuner vehicle, US$56 300 and cellphones to five armed robbers who raided their home on September 18. The vehicle was later recovered at the Harare Drive and Westborough Road intersection, where it had been dumped.
Schools have not been spared as six criminals stormed Rakodzi Secondary School in Marondera on September 15 and stole laptops, food, safe keys, US$120 and $2 000.
In another case, armed robbers attacked a family in Macheke on June 10. They broke into their house and stole firearms, live rounds of ammunition, electrical cables, two Sony plasma television sets, two DVD players and various groceries, all valued at US$3 595.
Earlier on, another gang of criminals invaded a Chitungwiza home and got away with US$4 500, $1 000, an HP laptop and several cellphones.
They got into the house on the pretext that they were police officers searching for dangerous drugs.