PASSENGERS in a pirate taxi from the Bulawayo city centre to Emganwini suburb yesterday savagely pummelled a lone gunman suspected to be behind a spate of armed robberies that have rocked the city in the last two months, after he allegedly tried to rob them and hijack the taxi in which he was also a passenger.
Nhlanhla Mhlanga (49) boarded a Toyota Wish heading to Emganwini from the city centre but turned against other passengers and the driver when they reached Nketa 9 suburb.
Mhlanga allegedly ordered the driver to stop the car on the pretext that he was disembarking.
As the driver stopped, he allegedly produced a pistol and began assaulting passengers and demanding that they surrender their possessions.
Police sources said Mhlanga is suspected to have robbed a number of people beginning in June this year.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi yesterday confirmed Mhlanga’s arrest and said he has been charged with armed robbery as police conduct further investigations on him.
“We have arrested a male suspect Nhlanhla Mhlanga (49) who boarded a pirate taxi between 10th and 11th Avenue along Herbert Chitepo Street in Bulawayo. The vehicle was heading towards Emganwini. It is alleged that upon reaching Nketa 9, the accused ordered the driver to stop the car as he was disembarking. He then produced a pistol and started attacking the three complainants and later turned to the owner of the car ordering him to surrender his car keys,” he said.
“But the driver resisted and in the process one of the complainants shouted that the accused was holding a toy gun and they all turned on him. He tried to run away and the occupants chased him and managed to arrest him. They later reported the matter to the police leading to the recovery of two cellphones and a small pistol with an empty magazine.”
Asst Comm Nyathi said Mhlanga had robbed his victims of $320, two cellphones with one of them worth $1050 while the other cost $320.
He lauded passengers and the driver for being brave and standing their ground against the suspected armed robber.
“We want to applaud members of the public for their bravery and we want to encourage people to be alert at all times whenever they board these private vehicles. They also should not board these vehicles when in the company of people that they don’t know. That’s why we are always insisting that people should board registered public service vehicles and even in these registered public service vehicles they should also be alert,” Asst Comm Nyathi said.
He declined to be drawn into confirming whether the suspect was savagely clobbered by his victims.
“We are still conducting investigations and as more information comes we definitely will update members of the public and the media. He is being charged with robbery. He had taken some cellphones from the two complainants and wanted to confiscate a satchel from the third passenger. We are still conducting investigations and more information will come out during the course of the investigations,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
Police sources said officers who attended the scene were encouraged to take him for a medical check up as he had sustained serious injuries from the beating.