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Criminals descend on Bulawayo's affluent suburbs

by Staff reporter
25 Aug 2021 at 05:42hrs | Views
BULAWAYO's affluent suburbs have been hit by a spate of housebreakings as organised criminal syndicates target businesspeople after cutting copper cables resulting in power blackouts.

The gangs capitalise on power outages to break into houses to steal under the cover of darkness.

In the latest incident, which occurred between Friday and Saturday during the wee hours, the criminals pounced on four houses in Burnside suburb, one of which belongs to a prominent city oncologist Dr Tatenda Chingonzoh.

 In the last few weeks, the gangs have been pouncing on several neighbourhoods in the city's leafy suburbs, which have been plunged into darkness due to copper cable theft.

Barely three weeks ago, police were involved in a shootout with six suspected armed robbers in Fourwinds suburb. Two of the suspects were fatally shot at the scene while the third succumbed to gunshot wounds at United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH).

The suspects were caught by the police while attempting to rob Mike Shawn Querl (45) of Franklin Avenue in Fourwinds, who is the Director of ABJ Engineering — a company which manufactures and sells mining equipment.

The matter is still pending before the courts. Residents said the criminals are capitalising on the power blackout to cut electric fences to gain entry into their victims' yards. One of the victims, a local businessman who declined to be named, said a criminal cut the electric fence at his house while others were busy diverting the attention of his barking dogs to allow easy passage for one of their members.

"It was on Friday night when we witnessed a blackout in our neighbourhood after copper cables were cut in our street. Thieves whom I suspect operated as a gang, came to my house and cut the fence on two points shortly after 11pm," he said.

The businessman said one of the intruders, spotted cameras which were in the veranda and tried to avoid being captured. "He then managed to open one of the windows in our lounge, but ran out of luck because the alarm rang and that is when he jumped over the precast wall and fled.

"When we went outside to investigate, we discovered that there was a car which was suspiciously moving around and I suspect it belonged to the gang," he said.

The businessman said the suspect's movements were captured on the camera since they had solar-powered electricity back up. A security guard in one of the houses in Burnside, Mr George Magaya, said cases of housebreaking and theft of copper cables are on the rise in the suburb.

"A week hardly passes without any incident involving theft of copper cables in Burnside and surrounding suburbs. In fact, these thieves are also targeting houses under the cover of darkness and we suspect they are operating as a syndicate," he said.

Another Burnside resident, Mr John Sibanda, urged police to intensify patrols in the suburb.

"These copper thieves are terrorising us and as resident we continue to urge police to intensify their night patrols. The moment their targeted neighbourhood plunges into darkness, they immediately pounce on homes," he said.

Sources said some of the victims include a local business couple which operates several pharmacies in the city.

"The couple was sleeping when the gang broke into the house in Hillside and stole a substantial amount of money in foreign currency among other valuables," said the source.

Another victim, who also refused to be named, said the criminals strayed into his yard and pulled down copper cables resulting in a blackout.

"They tried to break into our house, but fortunately we were alert and they managed to jump over the fence and disappeared in the darkness. Similar incidents are also happening in Hillside and Fourwinds," he said.

A news crew which visited Burnside yesterday saw some of the copper cables, including electric fences, which were cut by the criminals. Of late, Bulawayo has been hit by a series of power outages with several suburbs going for weeks without electricity as organised copper theft syndicates continue to strike in the city.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), which is prejudiced of over US$2 million annually through copper theft and vandalism of transformers, is struggling to replace the stolen cables with aluminium ones. ZETDC has said it has appealed for the army and police to assist in fighting the thefts.

Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said police were out in full force to curb criminality in the city.

"We are investigating a lot of cases of unlawful entries in areas such as Burnside, Hillside and Fourwinds and we have intensified patrols, both motorised and foot patrols. We also would like to appreciate communities in the affected areas for complementing our efforts in the fight against crime in Bulawayo," he said.

Source - chroncile