Two engineering students from Bulawayo Polytechnic, Lenny Ryan Mupande (21) and Bezel Chirova (21), have been sentenced to 11 years in jail for a series of crimes committed in Bulawayo.
Their criminal activities included robbing a Mukuru outlet, two Simbisa retail outlets, and several houses between March and September. The sentencing was delivered by Bulawayo regional magistrate Mr Elijah Singano.
Mupande and Chirova pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted armed robbery and armed robbery. Each of them received a 16-year jail term, with five years suspended for a period of five years on the condition that they do not commit a similar offence during that time. Additionally, Mupande was separately sentenced to five years for stealing a Honda Fit vehicle used in the crimes. One year of that sentence was suspended on the condition that he does not engage in similar criminal activities within the next five years. Consequently, Mupande will serve a total of 15 years in prison.
During their mitigation, the two students attributed their criminal actions to societal pressures and the influence of celebrities and social media influencers. They expressed a desire to mimic the lavish lifestyles they saw online, including the food, clothing, and drinks enjoyed by their peers and influencers.
In delivering the sentence, Mr Singano acknowledged the youthfulness and relative inexperience of the offenders, considering their age and the pressure they faced. However, he emphasized that leniency should not exempt them from punishment. The magistrate also noted the audacity displayed by Mupande and Chirova in carrying out their movie-style robberies, which warranted custodial sentences. He highlighted the financial prejudice suffered by the victims and the negative impact on customer confidence.
Ms Siphiwe Mhlanga appeared for the State.