‘Innovative’ robbers target unsuspecting commuters

A message to the siblings and parents. Picture by Aaron Ufumeli

THE old adage, “desperate circumstances call for desperate measures,” has been played out in the public transport sector where “innovative” robbers – under the camouflage of taxi and commuter omnibus crews – have devised new methods of stealing by targeting unsuspecting commuters.


Several such robbers have since appeared in court, with the police warning commuters to be “discerning” before using public transport vehicles.

With the country’s economic outlook still stuck in the grim mode and industry spewing out many workers through retrenchment exercises, desperados with no alternative streams of finance have found resorting to crime for survival the easiest and most convenient route, despite that it is fraught with pitfalls.

In one of such cases recently heard at the Harare Magistrates Court, one Alexio Kagoro (23) of Mbare National teamed up with his friends — Leon Nyakudirwa, John Nyashanu and another identified only as Tendai — and allegedly went on a spate of robberies while pretending to be bona fide taxi operators.

The four would allegedly offer people transport, threaten them with a pistol, knives and a knobkerrie before robbing them of their cash and valuables.

Several people have fallen prey to these robbers, including Mike Mkonzi (24) of Harare, who was robbed of his Samsung Galaxy smart phone after having boarded a commuter omnibus he was told was headed for Bulawayo at the Harare Show Grounds.

“When we had just passed Warren Hills Cemetery, one of the guys made as if he wanted to lock the door. He opened it and forcefully pushed me out of the vehicle while grabbing my phone. They then drove off,” he told NewsDay.

This new form of robbery has not only impacted negatively on the unsuspecting commuters, but has also dealt a severe blow on the operations of genuine taxi and commuter omnibus businesses.

“It is now difficult to get new customers and we are now forced to rely on our old customers only,” said Jeffrey Mudondo, a Harare taxi driver.
“It appears as if people are now suspicious of taxi drivers whose services they have never used before.”

Statistics released by the police in November last year showed that at least 3 499 commuters were kidnapped and robbed by pirate taxi drivers countrywide, with 284 of them having been robbed at gunpoint.

Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi told State media then that the police were concerned about the emerging trend.

“We are concerned with plain robbery cases (committed without the use of firearms) which involve pirate taxis, especially in Harare, Bulawayo, Kwekwe and Mutare, where people are offered lifts during the night and attacked,” Nyathi said.

The police, however, have been accused of being part of the problem due to their failure to curb the problem, something that social commentator Robert Mhishi said they could easily do if they applied themselves to it.

“You’ll find that most of these guys use private vehicles that are not registered as taxis and when they get to the roadblock or when they are arrested, they simply pay the police and are let loose,” he said.

“Perhaps the commuter omnibus crews end up resorting to robbing to get money to replace what they would have paid to the police when their kombis should simply have been impounded.”

Increasing levels of poverty and unemployment, especially among the youths, have also been cited as a contributory factor as it has significantly fuelled criminality.

Some of the youths who had resorted to black market dealing at the peak of the country’s hyper-inflationary period before the phasing out of the local currency were caught off guard when the government introduced the multi-currency regime in 2009.

In a paper presented at the March 2012 National Youth Conference in Harare, National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations executive director Cephas Zinhumwe said youth unemployment has created a vile culture of crime and social decadence.

“The effects of high youth unemployment include youth engaging in drug abuse, violence and crime, promiscuity leading to prostitution where they end up contracting HIV and Aids and other sexually transmitted infections that can be detrimental to their health,” he said.

Zinhumwe challenged the government to review the current national youth employment policy to address the causes and challenges of youth employment in the country to, among other things, curb the adverse effects of youth unemployment that included criminal engagements.

Many of the young people that have been arrested for using taxis and commuter omnibuses to commit robberies have claimed that unemployment has driven them into crime as a means of survival.

The excuses, however, have found no takers at law because — according to Mhishi — it did not make sense that someone claims that poverty is a reason for crime when there are other informal, small-scale enterprises that youths could engage in to make money.

“These days you can sell anything – water, sweets and even vegetables – to earn a living. There are many who are doing that so crime cannot be a defence,” he said. “The problem with many of these young people engaged in crime is just that they are social delinquents.” According to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, unemployment in Zimbabwe’s formal sector is over 80%.


    • The word is in quotes, Sir! It seems as if you’re not well versed in the gramma and semantics of written English Language………the quotes imply that the meaning of that word as applied in this particular sentence is not exactly the usual one as per diction, however, it serves to drive a certain point home as far as the writer’s point of departure or argument is concerned.

    • The word is in quotes, Sir! It seems as if you’re not well versed in the gramma and semantics of written English Language………the quotes imply that the meaning of the word as applied in this particular sentence is not exactly the usual one as per diction, however, it serves to drive a certain point home as far as the writer’s point of departure or argument is concerned.

  1. Hope someone gets to read this.
    Firstly all communter omnibuses must have identity numbers , not number plates which can be easily be removed. EG WP1, for Warren Park Combies, WG10 for westgate, that can be seen from a distance and easy to remember for us commuters. These numbers must be on all sides and inside too. In case something happens, I can easily see and remembers those identity numbers
    secondly there must be a phone number of the owner inside the vehicle, when we are abused, we should be able to phone the owner there and there. Unlike now, there is an address outside, but it will be too late.

  2. Why keep repeating this story about kombis everyday? I don’t know why Zanu introduced kombis in 1980 when we voted them into power? Up to 1980 this country had a very efficient public transport and the authorities had zero tolerance to tshovhas of any description. This kombi business should be done away with. Why not revert back to the pre-1980 transport system? I don’t understand the mentality of those in ZanuPF – they inherited an efficient and clean transport system they destroyed it and introduced this chaotic nonsense.

  3. @ Musona. Imi madhara imi should not have voted them into power 1980. Should have left Muzorewa to carry on and I think we would all have been better off. But it’s easier to say this with hindsight I’ll admit.

    • You are right. At the time most of us thought we could simply vote for someone else if the party in power did not perform as we did when we got rid of Muzorewa but unfortunately this has not been the case. Those in Muzorewa’s party quickly immersed themselves in scandal – pre-occupied with buying properties, introducing nauseating party jingles on radio like what ZanuPF is doing now, violence by Muzorewa’s Pfumorevanhu and triumphalism. All these leaders are people we lived with in Highfields pretending to be normal people. They sounded genuine at the time they were not in power but soon showed that they were only after power for themselves. After the gratuitous inter-party violence starting in the townships in 1963 between Zanu and Zapu I just felt this was nothing but an almighty scramble for leadership and nothing to do with majority rule. There’s no way these morons are going equal or better white rule.

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