Armed robbers attack 2 more schools, get away with US$17,500 cash

Ass-Comm Paul Nyathi

Brazen robberies plague private colleges in Ruwa and Gweru, raising suspicions of inside involvement

In a series of daring heists, two private colleges in Ruwa and Gweru have fallen victim to audacious robberies, leaving authorities concerned that the criminals may have received inside assistance. The incidents, which occurred recently, resulted in the loss of nearly US$17,500 in cash, along with valuable items. The police have initiated investigations into the matter, aiming to apprehend the culprits responsible for these brazen acts.

In Gweru, Sacred Heart College was targeted by a group of five armed robbers who launched an attack on security guards and staff members. Under the cover of darkness, the perpetrators forcibly gained access to the premises, making off with a substantial sum of US$15,886. Alongside the stolen cash, they also seized club funds, personal staff money, laptops, and CCTV equipment. The incident, which took place on Wednesday, sent shockwaves through the educational institution.

Meanwhile, in Ruwa, Ariel Primary School faced a similar ordeal when a gang of six robbers struck the residences of the school’s headmistress and her deputy. The armed assailants fired shots before proceeding to ransack the premises, making off with property and cash estimated to be worth US$1,500. Thankfully, no injuries were reported during the attack. The incident has prompted school authorities to review their security measures and consider implementing additional safeguards to protect staff members and school property.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said investigations were still in progress.

Fees have been flooding into schools, and not all the money paid in cash is banked daily, opening opportunities for theft and robbery.

In a notice to parents, Sacred Heart College school board chairman Mr Walter Nemasisi said the pupils and staff were safe.

“I wish to inform you about an unfortunate break-in incident that took place in the early hours of today, Wednesday January 10, 2024. Thieves broke in targeting all our offices. At this stage what we know is that some school fees received in the late afternoon from about three parents, club funds, personal monies of our staff, a few laptops and CCTV equipment were stolen.

“The matter is now in the hands of the police who have already started doing their investigations. All our students and resident staff are safe. The normal schooling programme was not affected. We want to assure you that circumstances notwithstanding everything is under control,” he said.

In Ruwa, Ariel Primary School, chairman of governors Advocate Thembinkosi Magwaliba told parents in a statement that a gang of six robbers targeted the houses of the head Ms Judith Bates and her deputy Ms Sarah Bennett where they fired shots before ransacking the premises. No one was injured during the attack.

“On the night of the 29th of December 2023, there was a criminal incident at the school, at Ms Bates and Ms Bennett’s private residences. We are, however, extremely thankful that no one was seriously hurt or injured.

“Six men armed with guns and other weapons attacked Ms Bates’ residence at about 9pm. They fired shots into her house through the bedroom window, forcing her out, ransacking the house as well as Miss Bennett’s house.

“The armed men forced Ms Bates into the back of her personal vehicle along with the two security guards and her partner forcing her to deactivate the alarms once at the school office, where the bursar’s office was turned upside down.

“Ms Bates along with the above mentioned three were abducted in her car,” he said.

Advocate Magwaliba said the robbers proceeded to commit another armed robbery along Tarisa Road in Ruwa, where a shoot-out occurred.

“The four were abandoned together with the car in Harare along Harare Drive as the robbers fled. A report was made to the police who are still investigating the case along with homicide and the crimes unit. We will advise you of any developments in due course. There was minimal loss of property and cash worth US$1 500 between the three crimes scenes.

“We are reviewing the security situation at the school and will implement additional measures to improve the security of our members of staff and the school property. Kindly note Ms Bates is on leave, after this very traumatic incident and will return on a date to be advised in due course.

“We kindly request that she be given privacy during this time. In the interim Ms Bennett will be in the office from January 3, 2024 and will be running the day-to-day aspects of the school,” he said.

On Tuesday night, Lomagundi College near Chinhoyi was also the scene of a brazen robbery as 10 armed robbers held staff members’ hostage before breaking into offices where they stole pistols from the security team, an undisclosed amount of cash, laptops and cellphones.

The robbers loaded the loot into a Mazda Tribute vehicle belonging to the school deputy head, Mr Tendai Masombo, before speeding off.

Although no school funds were taken, an undisclosed amount of money belonging to staff members was taken, and the police are now investigating the incident.

Police in Bulawayo are also investigating a case of unlawful entry and theft which occurred at a school at the intersection of George Silundika Street and N. K. Ndlovu Avenue (formerly Third Avenue) this week.

The yet unknown suspects broke into the school offices and stole US$17 280 cash which was in a cash box.

Last Friday, a lone armed robber raided a private college in Masvingo while purporting to be looking for a Form One place before vanishing with over US$22 800.

The robber attacked a victim before stealing the money, two cellphones and two laptops.

Yesterday, Asst Comm Nyathi said schools should deposit all cash at banks to curb such cases.

“School authorities are also urged to step up security measures at schools and employ guards from reputable security service providers who constantly monitor and review deployments. Above all, school authorities should install CCTV at points of entry and administration offices.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police is concerned that some of these robbery cases are resulting from leakage of information. Members of the public are warned that those who provide inside information to robbery syndicates will be arrested. Police crack teams are firm on the ground and will pounce on armed robbery syndicates for the law to take its course in earnest,” he said.

A manhunt has since been launched for the robbers.

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