Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
THREE Zimbabwe cross-border transport operators and a South African woman are expected to appear at the Palm Ridge High Court in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 4, to face charges of murdering two Chitungwiza women, raping three others and kidnapping 28 fellow countrymen in the neighbouring country. Charles Cecil Brewer (36), aka Boss, and his wife Petition Sicelo Madida (30), aka Sister, are believed to have committed the offences between May 30 and July 11, 2015 together with Jaheni Luphahla (28), aka Satan, and Phathumuzi Sibanda (27).
Madida is a South African national while Brewer, Luphahla and Sibanda reside in Nketa 7, Old Lobengula and Emakhandeni suburbs in Bulawayo, respectively.
They have been languishing in remand prison since their arrest in July last year and were denied bail at the Thembisa Magistrates’ Court in Johannesburg before the matter was transferred to a higher court.
The matter has been dragging as the accused have been struggling to get a lawyer after dumping legal practitioners that were offered by the South African government for free.
The four have been formally charged for murder, rape, kidnapping, assault, robbery and human trafficking.
They are believed to be part of a syndicate targeting mostly women travelling between Musina and Johannesburg in Gauteng Province.
The gang was picked up during a police sting operation in Musina on July 25 while preying on unsuspecting victims who were travelling to Johannesburg.
Sources close to investigations said the four have since been positively been identified by six victims.
They say Brewer and Madida were identified as the drivers of a white Opel (registration numbers SNB949GP) and a red Hyundai Matrix (ND462078).
Brewer and his accomplices are accused of killing Olga Gwena (25) and Esther Mwenda of Chitungwiza.
It is understood that the syndicate operated from some filling stations (names supplied) and houses in Musina where they pounced on Zimbabwean hitch-hikers travelling to Gauteng Province.
The suspects allegedly used South African registered private vehicles and touts to lure the unsuspecting victims into their cars.
They would then kidnap the victims and detain them at various houses in Johannesburg.
Once in Johannesburg, the four would allegedly turn violent and detain the victims after stripping them of various valuables including money.
They would also demand money from the victims’ relatives to secure their release. The money which ranges from R3000 would be paid through money agencies at Shoprite, PEP, Spar and Cambridge stores.
Despite the arrest of the gang, police in the neighbouring country say they are receiving fresh reports of Zimbabwean travellers who are being terrorised in the same manner.
Zimbabwe’s Consul-General to South Africa, Mr Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro, urged Zimbabweans to always use public transport, especially conventional buses, when travelling to the neighbouring country.