Victor Maphosa Herald Correspondent
POLICE have recovered a Toyota Allion that was used as a getaway car by armed robbers who stole substantial amounts of cash in foreign currency from suspected money changers at Makoni Shopping Centre in Chitungwiza on Wednesday.
The vehicle belonging to one of the suspected illegal foreign currency dealers, Jairos Jeke, was dumped outside Glen View Police Station.
According to witnesses the nine robbers, who were wearing masks, jumped off a Toyota Hilux truck armed with pistols, rifles and a machete before one of them ordered the foreign currency dealers, who trade outside Chicken Inn and Bakers’ Inn, to lie down.
The fast-food and confectionery outlets had to temporarily close their doors, with customers abandoning their food, as the heist unfolded. Some people who were queueing for cash at money transfer agency, Mukuru.com, scurried for cover while others lay on the ground face down.
The robbers targeted two brothers who are forex dealers. They robbed the two of their cash, before getting away with one of the brother’s cars.
National Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said vehicle was recovered but the ignition key, one tyre and the battery were missing.
“Police have recovered the vehicle which was taken by armed robbers who robbed forex dealers at Makoni Shopping Centre on Wednesday. The Toyota Allion was abandoned outside ZRP Glen View. We are still investigating the case,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi said it seemed the robbery was well coordinated and the robbers had full information about their targets.
He urged the public to desist from illegal activities, which included dealing in forex.
When The Herald visited Makoni shopping centre yesterday, fruit vendors and money changers were back at work. However, most of them confessed that they were still in shock following the Wednesday heist.
One robbery victim, Simbisai Jeke said: “They came in an unregistered white Toyota Hilux double cab truck, fired shots in the air and ordered everyone to lie down. I was in my car and four of the guys who were heavily armed came and forced open my door and pulled me out. I removed the car keys and threw them under one of the cars that were nearby. They started assaulting me and I fell down. One of them searched my car and took all the cash. That is when they left me. They did the same to my brother and he also lost some cash and his vehicle. I heard the vehicle has been recovered in Glen View so my brother has gone there with the police,” he said.
Jeke said he lost RTGS$15 000, US$3 000 and a cellphone. “I lost all the cash. Mari yese yakaenda mukoma and handichina kana yebasa. From what I saw, I think these guys were only targeting us. How come they only robbed me and my brother. We are not the only people changing money at this complex. This was well planned and those robbers were not just ordinary people.”
Another money changer said, if the incident was to occur again, he would leave Harare for the rural areas.
“I was scared to death. I just went and hid in one of the shops. Nothing was taken from me. They only targeted two of our colleagues. It seems they had instructions to target the two. That is my thinking. If this robbery incident were to happen again, I would definitely leave for my rural home. I still love my life,” he said.
One of the vendors who sells textbooks concurred with Jeke saying the robbers were not ordinary people.
“I saw everything unfolding. It was like we were watching an action movie. One of the robbers, who was light in complexion is the one who fired warning shots first. One of the robbers was female and she had two pistols strapped on either side of her legs.
“The whole incident was well planned and there was coordination. These are not just ordinary robbers. They looked as if they were well trained.”
No one was killed and no arrests have been made so far.