Zimbabwe Policemen Attempt To Steal US$1.5 million

It was in the Exhibit Room at the Harare Magistrates' Court (above) that two policemen and their civilian accomplices were caught red-handed demolishing a wall with hammers and chisels in a bid to get to US$1.5 million which was being kept there as evidence in a smuggling case.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 31 December 2009

Times are still tough for Zimbabwe's underpaid policemen, it seems.

Cephas Dumba and Talkmore Manyasha, two Harare-based policemen, tried to break into the Magistrates' Court in Zimbabwe's capital to steal US$1.5 million that was being kept under lock and key as evidence in the trial of that Mozambican who was caught a few days ago trying to smuggle the money out of Zimbabwe.

The policemen have since been arrested, together with a University of Zimbabwe Engineering student and two other people, apparently initially attempted to replace the one and half million US dollars evidence money with fake US dollar notes.A fake note dealer had given them US$400 000 for the purpose. 

However, the Magistrate changed the rules for booking evidence in and this ensured that the plan to exchange the real money with fake notes failed.

Meantime, the gang were unaware that the Mozambican had since been acquitted by the courts and that his money had been returned to him, so they decided to use force and went to the Magistrates' Court armed with bolt cutters and other instruments of destruction.

They cut through grates and wires and managed to enter the evidence room, only to find the money not there. Since they were already in, they decided to go further, into another strongroom, which the two policemen knew contains valuable evidence. 

They failed to gain entrance and went off to get hammers and chisels, which they then brought back and started demolishing the wall to the strongroom.

But it all proved tough going and one of them apparently told the other he was going off to buy drinks but instead ran off to Harare Central Police Station, where he reported that a theft was going on at the Magistrates Court.

The police, when they arrived, caught the robbers in the act, but the sentry, who was waiting outside in his car, the getaway car, managed to escape.

This report comes in the wake of two other high-profile robberies just in December 2009. One was a US$270 000 bank heist in the sleepy town of Chegutu, a few kilometers from Harare and the other was the case of the Town and Country Supermarket cashier who collected US$13 000 from his fellow cashiers and fled with it. He left a note saying that he had taken the money because the company had not given him a Christmas bonus and he therefore, had decided to give himself one.

The police, in fact, announced yesterday that have since arrested two members of the gang that launched the bank heist and recovered one of the two cars used in the robbery. The arrested members of the gang were also found in possession of cellphones and such from the clients in the banking hall, whom they had robbed, Hollywood-move style!

It is a sign of the times that these things are happening and it is by no means just because it is Christmas time. The correction that has since occurred in the Zimbabwe economy, where there are no longer opportunities to get filthy-rich, quick as was the case when hyperinflation and shortages reigned means that either people struggle to earn a living or turn to crime.

The failure by the Inclusive Government of Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe to create employment in the private sector by seeing to the supply side of the corporate economy means that we have a lot of people who have lost all hope of making something of themselves.

More importantly, though, the widespread use of the US dollar as Zimbabwe's official currency (the South African Rand has all but disappeared), means that shops, banks and other retailers are now targets worthy of attention from thieves and shady characters.

As a result, even the fast-food chain Innscor, which had sought to bring Zimbabwe into the First World by having some of their outlets open 24 hours or as late as 2a.m. are now closing them at 10 p.m.

Supermarkets and other retailers are also now closing earlier than they did before in an effort to protect not only their takings, but also the lives of their workers.

Zimbabwe, I am afraid, is slowly descending into the depths of crime which used to only read about in South African newspapers.



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