Police have warned tobacco farmers against transporting their bales at night as they are being targeted by robbers, especially in Harare. The police have been receiving reports of tobacco farmers that are being robbed by criminals at gunpoint while on their way to auction floors during the night and early morning.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi yesterday said they were concerned about the rise in such cases.
He said in one of the incidents, a farmer lost two tobacco bales to three armed robbers after an Isuzu truck they were travelling in was blocked by an unregistered Toyota Noah last week.
The incident occurred at around 2am while the farmer was on his way to Tobacco Sales Floor.
“On June 6, three other complainants were travelling in a Mazda Bongo with 14 tobacco bales from Karoi at around 3am,” said Asst Insp Nyathi.
“At the intersection of Rotten Row and Coventry Road, they discovered that the tent covering the bales had been tampered with.”
Asst-Comm Nyathi said when they stopped to check, the farmers were confronted by seven armed robbers who were travelling in an unregistered silver Mitsubishi Colt.
The robbers, who were armed with iron bars, offloaded seven bales and loaded them into their getaway vehicle and sped off.
“We are still worried about this trend. The farmers should also hire reputable transporters and also avoid travelling at night,” said Asst-Comm Nyathi.
He said the public should quickly report any suspicious characters to the police for the law to take its course.
In March, police urged tobacco farmers to be wary of organised criminals who take advantage of the increase in human and vehicular traffic at the auction floors during the selling season to commit offences, in addition to duping them.
The warning followed a marginal increase in armed robbery, fraud cases involving card cloning, mobile cash transactions, forgery, theft from cars and pickpocketing cases compared to those recorded during the 2018 tobacco marketing season.
Farmers are also advised not to entertain strangers and to safeguard their produce, as well as proceeds from sales.
Over the past few years, farmers have lost tobacco worth thousands of dollars after being robbed of their crop in transit to the auction floors or duped by con-artists.
Other farmers are waylaid by criminals who steal their hard-earned cash, goods and valuables.