25 years jail for grave­yard taxi hi­jacker

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Mashudu Net­sianda/Aux­ilia Ka­ton­go­mara

A MEM­BER of a no­to­ri­ous crim­i­nal syn­di­cate that ter­rorised taxi driv­ers in Bu­l­awayo by hi­jack­ing their cars, at­tack­ing them with ma­chetes near Lu­veve Ceme­tery and rob­bing them, has been sen­tenced to 25 years in prison.

Che­p­leni Muham­mad (25) of St Peters sub­urb and his ac­com­plices who are still at large ap­proached three taxi driv­ers on dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions and hired their cars be­fore lead­ing them to the ceme­tery where they robbed them of their money and ve­hi­cles.

Bu­l­awayo re­gional mag­is­trate Mr Trynos Utawashe yes­ter­day con­victed Muham­mad on his own plea of guilty to armed rob­bery, car­jack­ing and at­tempted car­jack­ing.

He sen­tenced him to 25 years im­pris­on­ment and sus­pended five years on con­di­tion that he does not within that pe­riod com­mit a sim­i­lar of­fence.

In pass­ing sen­tence, Mr Utawashe said the of­fence was pre­med­i­tated and well ex­e­cuted.

“The only thing mit­i­ga­tory is that you have shown con­tri­tion by ad­mit­ting the charges and did not waste the court’s time. It’ s set­tled that the court should be seen re­ward­ing such peo­ple.

“Th­ese three of­fences were pre­med­i­tated, they in­volved a great deal of plan­ning and were well ex­e­cuted us­ing the same modus operandi of pos­ing as prospec­tive clients and at­tack­ing driv­ers with ma­chetes. It’s just for­tu­nate that no life was lost,” said Utawashe.

Pros­e­cut­ing, Mr Ti­nashe Dzipe said on Oc­to­ber 10 this year at about 10PM, Mr Pi­a­son Mu­denda had parked his em­ployer’s taxi, a Honda Fit, at Hope Foun­tain when he was phoned by Muham­mad who had “for­got­ten” his pair of trousers in the car the pre­vi­ous day.

Mr Dzipe said Mr Mu­denda drove to the city cen­tre at an area near Tred­gold Build­ing where he found the ac­cused per­son wait­ing for him with his uniden­ti­fied ac­com­plices.

“The ac­cused, act­ing in con­nivance with his ac­com­plices, hired the com­plainant’s taxi on the pre­text that they wanted to be taken to Lu­veve and they of­fered to pay $8,” he said.

When they ap­proached a bushy area near Lu­veve Ceme­tery, Muham­mad or­dered the taxi driver to stop.

“The ac­cused pleaded with the com­plainant to dis­em­bark from the car so that he could as­sist his ac­com­plices, who pre­tended to be drunk, to walk home,” said Mr Dzipe.

When Mr Mu­denda com­plied, Mr Dzipe said one of Muham­mad’s ac­com­plices pushed him to the ground be­fore stran­gling him with his T-shirt.

They struck the taxi driver on the head with a ma­chete, searched his pock­ets and took two cell­phones, $185 and R80.

They dis­ap­peared into the bush leav­ing the vic­tim ly­ing un­con­scious on the ground.

On Oc­to­ber 14 shortly after 10PM, the sec­ond com­plainant, Mr Phi­lani Ncube, had parked his car, a Toy­ota Fun Cargo, in front of a city sports bar when Muham­mad and his ac­com­plices hired him on the pre­text that they wanted to be taken to Lu­veve. Mr Ncube drove the gang to­wards Lu­veve.

“When they ap­proached a bushy area near the ceme­tery, they struck the taxi driver with a ma­chete on the back of his head forc­ing him to stop the car. He re­moved the keys from the ig­ni­tion and jumped out of the ve­hi­cle,” said Mr Dzipe.

The rob­bers wres­tled with Mr Ncube and he man­aged to over­power them be­fore he rushed back to his car and locked him­self in­side.

“They stoned the car and dam­aged the front wind­screen and head lamps, but the com­plainant man­aged to es­cape,” said Mr Dzipe.

Four days later, the ac­cused in the com­pany of other mem­bers of his syn­di­cate ap­proached Mr Mike Shekede who had parked his car at cor­ner Leopold Takawira Av­enue and Her­bert Chitepo Street. They hired him to take them to Gwa­ba­landa. Mr Dzipe said when they ar­rived at Lu­veve Ceme­tery, they or­dered the com­plainant to drive into the ceme­tery yard and he re­fused.

“Muham­mad struck the com­plainant on the back of his head with a ma­chete and he stopped the car. They grabbed him by the neck be­fore his ac­com­plices pushed him to the back seat,” said Mr Dzipe.

Muham­mad took over the steer­ing wheel and reck­lessly drove to a se­cluded place in­side the ceme­tery. They tied his hands us­ing a seat belt and at­tacked him after which they took a cellphone, $250 and a pair of sports shoes be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing.

Po­lice car­ried out in­ves­ti­ga­tions and man­aged to get Muham­mad’s res­i­den­tial ad­dress, lead­ing to his ar­rest and sub­se­quent re­cov­ery of $39 and a cellphone be­long­ing to one of the com­plainants. — @mash­nets

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