25 years jail for graveyard taxi hijacker
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