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Armed robberies on the increase

Augustine Mukaro

ARMED robberies are assuming alarming proportions in Harare as criminals increasingly use firearms in attacks on suburban homes.

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The most tragic victim is prominent local architect Andy van de Ruit who was killed at his Hogerty Hill home in Borrowdale on the night of Wednesday, February 4.

He was killed when armed intruders broke into his house by pulling the back door off its hinges.

Andy van de Ruit was shot in the chest while his wife, Felicity, was shot in the stomach and had to be hospitalised. Their 18-year-old son was present at the time.

There has been a spate of armed robberies recently. While no other fatalities have been reported, people have been shot at or assaulted.

The Anti-Hijack Trust this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that armed robberies were on the increase.

“Last year alone 76 incidents were reported to us,” Anti-Hijack Trust director, Deddy Thomas said.

“In all the cases guns and violence were reportedly used with shots being fired in the process,” she said.

Thomas said her organisation was receiving reports from all over the country including farms.

“Our reports came from as far away as Bulawayo, Nyanga, and Mutare as well as Harare.

She said in all the incidents victims lost forex, local currency, and jewelry as well as electronic gadgets, which include DVDs and television sets and cameras.

“The first thing the gang would ask for is a safe,” Thomas said. “If they don’t get what they want, they then turn violent, beating up the victims, threatening to rape women and looting the houses.

“We suspect there are about four to five gangs doing the rounds throughout the country,” she said.

One of the victims in the Mutare area, which has been hard-hit by robberies, complained bitterly about the level of response to their SOS calls by their security company.

“When my alarm went off to indicate that there was a problem at the house, the security company’s rapid response team called us and assured us that they would be at the house in five minutes,” the victim, said. “They arrived shortly thereafter but parked down the road until they were sure the coast was clear,” he said.

The company later claimed it had given instructions to its staff not to enter premises where firearms were being used.

In another case a prominent Harare doctor says when a gang of five armed robbers broke into his Borrowdale home they took hostage his daughter before demanding keys to the safe. They looted millions of dollars worth of accessories as well as cash.

“My 16-year-old daughter was in the lounge practising the piano when the robbers struck and took her hostage. She screamed for help to which I responded swiftly,” the doctor said. “As I approached them, the gang leader fired a shot at me.

“I told them that I would comply with all their demands if they let the girl free which they did. They proceeded to bind my wife and me, threatening to rape my wife. They demanded to know where the safe was. I surrendered the keys. They looked pleased with the money they got before proceeding to ransack the house and escape into the darkness,” he said.

He said the whole operation took about 30 minutes. A relative had to go and fetch the police from Borrowdale police station.

“My sister fetched a police sergeant from Borrowdale police station. The officer promised to bring a back-up team to look into the matter, which he never did but only referred us to the CID who took five days to respond,” the doctor said.

A victim in Mutare said his family was the fourth to undergo such an ordeal in the city. He lost millions worth of household goods including a Mitsubishi Colt truck in which the gang loaded their loot. He was left locked up in a toilet after being shot at.

Other victims report beatings, the threat of rape, and being tied up. One family reported two hours of terror recently when their young children were separated from them as they were subject to beatings and abuse with constant threats of rape against the women.

“I am a killer,” one of the intruders told the family’s young son before searching the house for money.

Police yesterday said there had been 372 cases of armed robberies in Harare last year, 259 in Bulawayo, 106 in Mashonaland East, and 160 in Mashonaland West. Manicaland had 58 cases.

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