Law enforcement agents are on high alert following a recent spate of armed robberies and heinous rape incidents around the country — including in the capital, Harare where a gang of rogue taxi drivers is terrorising women, the Daily News can report.
This comes as police in Manicaland have engaged their Mozambican counterparts, in a desperate bid to stem the growing scourge of armed robberies and rape cases in the eastern border city of Mutare — suspected to involve criminals from the neighbouring country.
In one of the recent incidents in Harare, a woman who had hired a taxi was murdered and dumped near her residence in Eastlea, while another lady survived attempts to kill her by robbers who accosted her near Newlands Shopping Centre.
And in similar cases in Bulawayo, three women were also gang-raped after being robbed of their valuables.
Police spokesperson Charity Charamba confirmed the cases and the upsurge in armed robberies around the country, adding that authorities were closing in on the criminals.
She also revealed that some of the criminals involved were nationals of neighbouring countries — citing the case of armed robbers who had travelled all the way from South Africa to rob people in Bindura recently.
“It’s unfortunate that we have had several cases of women victims recently, but the robbers are targeting anyone and not just females — and they are even roping in female accomplices in their criminal activities.
“We are appealing to the public to be proactive and to assist us with any information that can help us with our investigations.
“We also urge people to use regular transport like registered commuter omnibuses, not the mushika shikas, and to also avoid walking in secluded places where they can be victimised,” Charamba told the Daily News yesterday.
Rabison Shumba, a heart-broken motivational speaker and mentor to one of the deceased Harare victims revealed the tragic circumstances under which his mentee lost her life.
“Pru (full name of the deceased withheld) was coming from work when she was murdered in cold blood.
“We heard that she boarded a taxi which diverted its route. She was pepper sprayed, stabbed and dumped in Eastlea after the murderers stole her possessions.
“Another lady (name also withheld) also encountered a similar incident but was fortunate enough to survive,” Shumba said.
A Harare woman who recently fell victim to the criminals, Anna Zvidzayi, told the Daily News that she was robbed after she hired a white Honda Fit taxi in the central business district.
“We started the trip well and the driver asked if he could pick up his brother at the corner of Third Street and Herbert Chitepo, and I agreed as I didn’t suspect anything.
“He picked up this other man, who was already waiting and I asked them to drop me at the corner of Fifth Street and Herbert Chitepo. But they refused and closed the windows.
“They threatened me with knives and held me hostage until we reached Newlands where they took my phone and handbag, and drove away leaving me with nothing,” Zvidzayi said of her scary ordeal.
Another lady, Laticia Chinhete, said she had suffered multiple knife wounds after she was robbed by a taxi driver who had a female accomplice with him who had been disguised as a passenger.
She said after being attacked viciously, she was pushed out of the moving car along Sam Nujoma Street.
The Daily News was also told of an attempted kidnapping case in Marbelreign where another Honda Fit taxi was involved and had been foiled by alert passers-by.
The growing attacks on women have triggered concerns that the situation is getting out of hand, with pressure groups challenging police to bring all the perpetrators to book expeditiously.
Shamwari yeMwanasikana director Eke Chifamba said the incidents exposed how vulnerable women had become in Zimbabwe.
“The events of the past few weeks have been really disheartening for us women … It’s clear that women are being targeted in all cases and it makes us feel very unsafe.
“We are calling on all the relevant authorities to take urgent action and to ensure that women are safe in the spaces that they are occupying everywhere”, Chifamba said.
Taxi drivers plying routes in the Harare city centre said while the incidents were bad for their business, people also needed to be cautious when hiring taxis.
“Most of the taxis that are doing this are usually found at bars and night clubs. It’s important that women have regular taxi drivers in order for them to be safe from these criminals.
“We have also seen bogus policemen in uniforms who pretend to either be the taxi driver or passengers in a taxi, consequently leading to the robbing of the public,” said cab driver Marlon Muwengwa.
Meanwhile, the local edition of the Sunday Times of South Africa has also reported that residents in affluent suburbs of Mutare were living in fear, amid a spate of armed robberies.
The suburbs of Morningside, Greenside, Beira Corridor, Palmerston, Darlington and Borderview — all of which are near the Mozambique border — have become hot spots for machete and axe-wielding robbers.