THREE officers based at Pumula Police Station in Bulawayo were on Sunday morning arrested for alleged theft of copper cables in Pumula East suburb.
Residents arrested them at about 1AM. One of the cops was nabbed while wearing his service uniform while his accomplices were in civilian clothing.
The three have been identified as Constable Rodrick Tavunanago (34), Cst Tapiwa Takuberekera (39) and Cst Kudzai Wemba (33).
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the trio’s arrest.
“We confirm that three of our officers have been arrested for suspected theft of copper cables.
As the Zimbabwe Republic Police we do not condone any act of criminality among our members and I would like to assure the public that the law will take its course.
The suspects will appear in court soon,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
He commended members of the public for apprehending the suspects.
Asst Comm Nyathi appealed for any information that may link cops with any crime as ZRP is on a drive to rid itself of corrupt members.
Zesa’s western region acting general manager Engineer Lloyd Jaji said the case is under police investigation.
Theft of copper cables attracts a mandatory nine-year sentence but Government is already working on amending the law to make the sentence more deterrent.
Eng Jaji lauded Pumula East residents for braving the night to effect a citizen arrest on the three police officers.
“This is a commendable exercise and it has to be done regardless of who it is.
We have always said we don’t care who it is and if everyone plays a part like these ones did, I think we would be okay in safeguarding national infrastructure,” said Eng Jaji.
He said there is no employee of the power company involved in the theft case.
Eng Jaji said an employee mentioned in a widely circulated police memorandum is a Zesa worker representing the power company in the prosecution of the police officers.
Pumula East Block 1 residents association chairperson Mr Mpumelelo Ngwenya said the unruly cops even attacked a resident who had cornered them.
“This thing happened at about 1AM.
One of the residents heard some people moving on his roof top.
We already had lost power although some parts of the suburb had electricity.
So as he heard people moving on top of the house, he shouted that there were thieves and that is when most of us woke up to check what had happened.
We discovered that the thieves had stolen copper cables supplying power to our homes.
They had dragged the power cables so we followed the direction in which the cables were being dragged to,” said Mr Ngwenya.
He said as they approached a nearby stream, they found copper cables but the thieves had vanished.
Mr Ngwenya said residents returned to their homes but one of them in the company of another resident decided to trail the suspects using his car as he believed they were not far off.
“He drove along Ntemba Road in the Nkulumane direction and found a vehicle which was parked on the side of the road.
He blocked the car and when he exited the car he discovered one of the people was wearing a police uniform,” said Mr Ngwenya.
“We are told that the three started attacking him using a baton stick while trying to put handcuffs on him.
We believe that if the guy who was with him had not responded they could have killed him.
So his friend drove back to fetch residents and that is how we stopped his assault,” said Mr Ngwenya.
He said some residents who had not followed to rescue the person who was being attacked discovered a police hat and a wallet belonging to another cop at the crime scene.
Mr Ngwenya said one of the police officers managed to escape from the scene and rushed to Pumula Police Station where he falsely reported that he had been attacked by robbers in Pumula East.
He said when they apprehended the other two police officers, the one who was putting on a uniform did not have his hat so they connected him to the crime scene.
Mr Ngwenya said residents refused to hand over the recovered copper cables to the police before the arrival of Zesa employees.
“So, during the day as police conducted their indications with the suspects, we were led to a place which we believe was the hideout for the offenders.
They had stashed cases of alcohol bottles commonly known as Njengu.
There were several empty sacks on the site as well as some decomposing meat.
In one of the sacks, there were some old copper cables,” said Mr Ngwenya.
He also took the news crew to the site where the items were being hidden and there were some decomposing meat.
Another resident Mr Smart Dube said he is the one who alerted the residents of the theft.
“I was awakened by my wife saying there was some movement on our rooftop and I shouted out to the residents.
That is how I discovered that thieves had stolen copper cables.
We organised ourselves as residents to search for the thieves and when we realised that we could not find them, I decided to use my vehicle to search for them until I bumped into them along Ntemba Road,” said Mr Dube.
He said he blocked their car and a cop approached him and put handcuffs on him while others started assaulting him.
“I tried to reason with them on why they were assaulting me when I was trying to locate thieves.
I told them that if they were police officers, they should be assisting me in searching and arresting the culprits.
So, when my friend realised that they were unrelenting he drove back to our neighbourhood and brought backup.
That is how I survived but already I had been hurt in the head,” he said.
Mr Dube said he positively identified one of the police officers as they usually participate in snooker tournaments together.
He said it was disheartening that cops were involved in committing crime.
“We were expecting more from the police officers.
It is worrying that they are the ones that are involved in committing crime.
Just two weeks ago we had another theft of copper cables in our area and we wondered if they had come to complete the job.
These guys are an embarrassment to Government,” he said.
Zesa replaced the stolen copper cables with the aluminium ones.