HARARE – A twelve-member gang that reigned terror in parts of Mashonaland West before it was busted in 2015 at a hideout farm was yesterday technically sentenced to life imprisonment, with the Harare regional court which presided over the trial passing a cumulative sentence of 744 years.
The wives and relatives of the notorious armed robbers sobbed in court as Harare regional magistrate Hosiah Mujaya sentenced the gang to 62 years imprisonment each following convictions on armed robbery, and contravening the Firearms and Explosives Act.
Five Pistols, two cars and cell-phones that were used during the robbery sprees were forfeited to the State except an AK47 assault rifle that was returned to the police and a Vector pistol that belonged to one of their victims.
The 12 are Simbarashe Tavengwa, 37; Ngonidzashe Mutiba, 36; Tinashe Chikara, 49; Titus Chatukuta, 35; Ray Shangari, 35; Tinashe Matinyenya, 28; Wilson Kaneta, 33; Khumbulani Ncube, 35; Mgcini Ramachela, 33; Charles Nyandoro, 53; Rodwell Mutunya, 34 and Takafa Vumbunu, 33.
Tavengwa will serve an effective 66 years after a prison term of four years that had previously been suspended on condition of good behaviour by a Bulawayo court was added to his sentence.
He committed these offences while on bail, pending appeal, over an armed robbery case in which he had been sentenced to 30 years imprisonment by the Bulawayo court.
Mutiba, Chatukuta, Shangari, Matinyenya, Kaneta, Ncube, Ramachela and Vumbunu had 10 years suspended after Mujaya considered that they were first time offenders. Eight years were suspended from Chikara’s sentence and five years from Mutunya’s, leaving them with effective jail terms of 54 and 57 years, respectively.
Nyandoro, whose criminal record dates back to 1979, did not get a portion of his sentence suspended and will effectively serve 62 years.
Mujaya considered that all criminals were family men and had spent close to two years in remand prison but noted that the gang was determined in their escapades and were ruthless with their victims.
“ . . . fortunately, no one lost their life but the courts ought to preserve the sanctity of human life.
“Among the people you traumatised were the Trambikos who are aged and sickly, and were affected to the extent that they could not even face you in court,” Mujaya said.
“The fuel attendant at Chinhoyi must count himself lucky that the gun got jammed. Robbing Somabi, which is a police institution, and walking away with an AK47 shows criminal daring on the parts of convicted persons.”
The gang was arrested following an incident at Ayrshire Mine in Banket on August 4, 2015, when they waylaid two security vehicles transporting about 6,5 kilogrammes of gold from the mine to Fidelity Printers in Harare.
It was proved that the gang was armed with six pistols, an AK-47 assault rifle, axes, iron bars and two sets of spikes as they prepared to attack Safeguard Security company cash-in-transit vehicles. When the gang was about two kilometres from the mine, they saw the vehicles approaching and threw spikes on the road in a bid to deflate the tyres and continue to attack. The victims noticed the spikes and tried to reverse the vehicles but the gang quickly moved in and deflated the vehicle tyres.
The gang simultaneously emerged from the right side of the bush, wearing matching blue work suits and face masks and at the same time, opening fire at the fleeing security vehicles.
As the area was turned into a battlefield, the gang used axes, hammers and crowbars to smash the front screen and side windows of the armoured vehicle carrying gold, but the crew did not surrender. Tavengwa and his gang kept randomly firing at the stationary vehicle, while the security crew returned fire, resulting in one of the gang members getting shot.
The blood trail left behind was taken for forensic examination and matched Vumbunu’s wounds, which were concluded to have been inflicted by a gun shot.
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