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Be careful out there: Journalist shares first-hand encounter with armed robbers



Victor Maphosa

Be careful out there: Journalist shares first-hand encounter with armed robbers. There were about 20 other commuters at the long-distance bus stop. I joined in the flagging down of lifts. Soon, a Chirundu-bound haulage truck crawled, huffed, puffed and screeched to a rattling halt. The air brakes puffed the last when the truck had already stopped.

A friend had just dropped me off near Westgate Shopping Centre on the outskirts of Harare around 7pm on Thursday from where I intended to catch lifts to Gwebi College to visit my brother.

Touts stampeded to get permission to load passengers in the truck, amid a waft of dust that we could only smell and not see, it is dark. In the shadow of the silhouette rear brake lights, a blue Honda Fit appeared on tow and it stopped, looking for passengers too.

A tall lady who was going to Chinhoyi jumped into the back seat first, followed by another man and then yours truly. “Tiri kuenda kuChinhoyi muface wangu,” (We are going to Chinhoyi my friend) said the driver after he stopped inches from where I was standing. “Ndiri kuda kusara pa Gwebi and how much is it?” I said.

Before boarding, I struggled to open the door, and the driver urged me to exert more pressure and it finally opened. My sixth sense gave a warning, “This door is hard to open, what if this car belongs to robbers, will I be able to open it from inside, and oh, I did not check the number plates of this car

I quickly brushed that aside. We passed a police checkpoint in Mt Hampden. About 5km from the checkpoint, the driver started speeding. Well, I do not have a problem with speed. All I wanted was to be at my destination and come back as early as possible.

In a blink of an eye, one of the passengers seated in front slid back his seat such that it blocked my view and immobilised my legs. In an instant, he produced a long shiny knife which he poised inches away from the left side of my chest.

He screamed, “Makwira mota yematsotsi, musatitarise, tsikitsirai musoro pasi, failure to do that tinokuurayai mose. Tiri kuda zvese zvamunazvo mafoni nemari. (You have boarded robbers’ car… surrender all you have or we kill you). “Driver, give me that spray, let me punish this man who seems to be defiant. If you try any tricks we will not hesitate to kill you.”

It happened so fast that there was no time or any chance to resist. With his right hand firmly holding the knife, his left hand was busy in my pockets. I lost my two mobile phones, US$110 and $400 and my beautiful wristwatch. Yes it is very beautiful.

At the other side of the vehicle, one of the man seated at the right side of the back seat, grabbed the tall lady by the neck and took her mobile phone and a handbag which I later learnt had her bank cards, driver’s licence and national identification card.

When all this was happening, we were pleading with the criminals not to kill us. I politely asked for my other documents and one of the criminals handed me back my ID, my Press card and bank cards plus US$1 to get transport back to town.

It happened in less than five minutes, we were cleaned of our belongings. They kept on threatening to kill us. After robbing us, they drove off the main road to the left, passed a railway level crossing and turned right and then left again and drove for 400 metres before making a U-turn.

The one who was holding a knife at my chest disembarked and went to open the boot. We could not see what he was doing there. After a minute, he came back and opened my door while pointing the knife at me.

I made my final prayer, or my only prayer. “Lord, I know I have not been communicating with you for a long time. This is my prayer today, if I am to die, I commit my spirit in your hands, forgive me of all my trespasses, Amen.”

I could hear the woman next to me saying her prayers also. The criminals ordered me out and forced me to kneel, with the knife now on the back of my neck.

I closed my eyes, waiting to feel the cold piercing knife slicing my neck. Instantly, the driver raved the car and my-would be executor jumped in and they drove off at high speed, with the woman inside. My captor shouted to me, “Don’t you dare raise your head or else…”

In defiance, I raised my head anticipating to see the number plates, but it was not visible. Some tape was stuck on the plate making the numbers invisible. They drove for about 200 metres and shoved the woman out and drove off again at high speed.

She screamed, wailed and cursed. “They were now debating on whether to rape me or not. One of the criminals said they should let me go,” she said while shaking.

We found our way back to the main road and a Good Samaritan gave us a lift and left us at a police station at Westgate Shopping Centre where we were attended to by the police.

One of the cops assisted us with his mobile phone and airtime to call our relatives and inform them of our predicament. Our police officers deserve a thumbs up, they are professionals. Thank you Westgate police post team.

It all started after my article had been cleared by the News Editor and I asked to be excused since I had a personal chore which I needed to do.

I told my boss that I wanted to go to Gwebi and he said it was a bit late for that if I was not using own vehicle. “Victor, you like travelling in the evening, even during the night, that is very risky, robbers are everywhere,” he advised.

I asked him if I could use his car, well he told me to wait for a few minutes since he was still doing something, but I did not have those few minutes to wait, so as soon as he briefly left his desk, I eluded him.

I did not want him to see me, surely he was going to stop me. Well, I failed to listen to his advice and lost all my personal belongings.

Source – The Herald

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