Victor Maphosa Herald Correspondent
Police has recovered a Toyota Allion which was used as a getaway car by armed robbers who pounced on illegal forex dealers at Makoni Shopping centre on Wednesday afternoon.
The vehicle which belonged to one of the illegal money changers Jairos Jeke was found dumped in Glenview. Jeke’s car was taken by the robbers after robbing him of his money. According to witnesses the nine robbers, who were wearing masks, jumped out of a Toyota Hilux truck armed with pistols, rifles and a machete before one of them ordered the foreign currency dealers, who trade outside the Simbisa Fast-food outlet to lie on the ground.
Fast-food and confectionery outlets Chicken Inn and Baker’s Inn had to temporarily close their doors, with customers abandoning their food, as the heist unfolded. Some people who were queueing for cash at Mukuru.com scurried for cover, while others lay on the ground. The robbers targeted two brothers who are forex dealers. They robbed the two of their cash, before taking one of the brother’s car and sped off with it.
National Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said when the vehicle was recovered, the keys, one tyre and the battery were missing.
“Police has 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 Glenview this morning (Thursday). The car has since been identified, however, one tyre, battery and keys were missing. We are still investigating the case,” he said.
Ass-Comm Nyathi said it seemed the robbery was well coordinated and the robbers had full information on their targets. He urged the public to desist from illegal activities, which include illegally dealing in forex. When The Herald visited Makoni Shopping Centre yesterday, business was back to normal with vendors and money changers doing their usual trade.
However, most of them confessed that they still fear for their lives after witnessing the attack. The Herald managed to speak to one of the money changer who was robbed, Simbisai Jeke.
“They came in an unregistered white Toyota Hilux Double Cab, 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. In that instant, I removed the car keys and threw them under one of the cars which was 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 Glenview so my brother has gone there with the police,” he said.
Jeke said he lost $15 000, US$3 000 and S8 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 a well planned robbery and those robbers are not just ordinary people.”
Another money changer said, if the incident was to occur again, he will leave Harare for his rural areas.
“I was scared to death. I just went and hid myself 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 is to happen again, I will 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 just 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. Of the nine robbers, one was female and she had two pistols tucked and 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.”
On Wednesday, business came to a standstill at Makoni Shopping Centre when these armed robbers stormed the complex and went away with cash, cellphones and one car.
The nine robbers, who were wearing masks and worksuits were heavily armed with rifles and pistols.
No one was killed in the melee. No arrests so far have been made.