"South Africans Behind Zimbabwe Bank Robberies" - Zimbabwe Police
Harare, Zimbabwe, 01 January 2010
Police in Zimbabwe seem to have cracked the case of a US$270 000 robbery at a bank in Chegutu, a few kilometres from Harare and they are blaming South Africans for it.
I must admit that this is impressive work from the normally complacent Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). They now state with confidence that the gang comprised six people: three Zimbabweans and three South Africans. Their names are already known to the police.
The South Africans are said to have had local accomplices who brought them into the country (presumably in a criminal case of "importing skills" into Zimbabwe). Two of the locals have since been arrested.
The ZRP say they now know for sure that the South Africans have since returned to their country, using an illegal crossing point near Beitbridge border post. Curiously, it is said that the three foreigners boarded buses in broad daylight in Harare in order to make it to the border. Which just shows how cleverly they had planned their crime: police would be more likely to look for the robbers in private vehicles at roadblocks. It would appear unlikely to them that people who had just stolen US$270 000 would board a bus to get to the border.
The details get much worse, unfortunately: one of Gideon Gono's employees at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is also implicated in the robbery and in a previous failed attempt to rob a CBZ bank branch in the Harare satellite town of Chitungwiza.
The police say the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe worker has fled to Mutare and is hiding there, although I am certain that they may be mistaken. He may have taken the route to Mutare in order to cross the border into Mizambique and may well be there now.
The loot from the Stanbic bank branch had already been divided amongst the thieves.
US$50 000 has been recovered from Akim Matare and Jotamu Gonese, who were arrested within 24 hours of the robbery. You can rest assured that they were beaten and tortured heavily and ended up revealing the names of their accomplices.
It appears the local bank robbers (unlike their South African masterminds) were a bit thick, since they used cars registered in their own names. One of them, who is said to have escaped into South Africa dressed as a member of a well-known religious sect that wears white gowns, used his younger brother and one of the cars used in the robbery to get to Beitbridge border post.
The younger brother was arrested as he drove back from dropping off the robber at the border.
The police have also managed to identify the owner of the Isuzu twin-cab truck used in the robbery. It is Jotamu Gonese, one of the men now in police custody. The other car is said to have belonged to the Zimbabwean police suspect is hiding in Mutare or surrounding areas.
It was Gonese who then shopped Matare. Incredibly, Matare was still driving the Isuzu that had been used in the robbery when police pounced and arrested him! And it was he who led police to the US$50 000 that they have now recovered.
It remains to be seen if police in South Africa are as effective in quickly apprehending their citizen robbers as the Zimbabwean police have been.
Happy New Year for 2010