Patrick Chitumba Midlands Bureau Chief
A decision by a suspected armed robber to flaunt his ill-gotten wealth on social media backfired after he was arrested when his picture with wads of United States dollars attracted the attention of law enforcement agents.
Blessing Lizhu (38) of 47051/16 Mpopoma suburb appeared in court with four Fawcett Security Company employees facing allegations of stealing cash amounting to US$305 290 and two pistols with a combined value of US$450.
The security guards are Bongani Mapfumo (29) of 10682 Nkulumane suburb, Emmanuel Nhamo (47) of 57819 Lobengula suburb, Thomas Chisambadzi (49) of 59/821/1 Iminyela suburb and Langelihle Moyo (42) of 31153/28 Entumbane suburb.
The guards had earlier reported that six robbers, including two who were wearing police uniforms, had mounted a fake roadblock at the 234km peg along the Harare-Bulawayo Road and got away with the cash after aiming guns at the Fawcett guards. The robbery is said to have been staged at the point between Connemara Open Prison and Hunters Road Shopping Centre
Lizhu and Mapfumo appeared before Gweru magistrate Mr Blessings Tsingano on Monday while Nhamo, Chisambadzi and Moyo appeared before Provincial magistrate Mr Edwin Marecha on Tuesday.
They were all facing a count each of theft of cash amounting to US$305 290 and two pistols valued at US$450 from a Fawcett cash-in-transit vehicle.
They were not asked to plead and were all remanded in custody to December 17.
According to State papers last week on Thursday, Lizhu connived with the security company employees and four others who are still at large to fake an armed robbery.
Allegations are that the accused persons and four others who are still at large hatched a plan to steal Fawcett Security Company cash which the guards had been assigned to transport from Bulawayo to Harare.
They were allegedly using a company vehicle being driven by Mapfumo.
In Bulawayo, they allegedly picked Lizhu, who is not their fellow employee and travelled with him in the same vehicle with the cash.
The court heard that while on their way and near Connemara Open Prison, Mapfumo allegedly stopped the vehicle.
While at that place they were allegedly joined by four other accused persons who are at large and were driving a white Honda Fit vehicle. The accused persons the court heard, allegedly connived and decided to pretend to have been robbed. In the company of the accused persons who are still at large, Lizhu and Mapfumo allegedly assaulted two security guards who were seated at the back of the vehicle with spanners and threatened to shoot them.
They later tied their hands with a string and disarmed them of their service pistols.
They allegedly broke the three cash boxes using a bolt cutter they had carried for that purpose to break three cash boxes and stole the cash which they loaded into their bags.
Mapfumo, Nhamo, Chisambadzi and Moyo then proceeded to the police and made a false robbery report.
Upon investigation, police realised that there was never an armed robbery.
Lizhu was arrested and confessed to having hatched a plan with the accused persons.
Mapfumo also allegedly confessed to have hatched the plan to rob his employer leading to the recovery of US$18 750 cash through indications they made. The State was represented by prosecutors Mr Fredrick Matsheza and Ms Margaret Mukucha.