By Phyllis Kachere recently in Beitbridge.
FIVE South African nationals and three Zimbabwean accomplices were last week arrested after police in Beitbridge bust a network of criminals believed to have been behind a spate of robberies, kidnappings and human trafficking in the border town.
Officer Commanding police in Beitbridge District Chief Superintendent Hosiah Mukombero said law enforcement agents swooped on the suspects at a homestead in Makakabule, about 20km north of Beitbridge town. He said police also rescued five abductees who were being kept at the homestead ostensibly to be “sold off” in South Africa at a later stage.
South Africans Isaiah Khumalo, Padget Tshuma, Dumisani Ndlovu, Ronald Maphosa and Diamond Doubt Moyo are facing kidnapping and robbery charges. Their alleged accomplices are Vusumuzi Maphosa, Mushe Sibanda and Thabani Ngwenya. According to information to hand, the suspects would allegedly dupe Zimbabweans intending to travel to SA without documents into believing that they could assist them cross the border illegally. The “assistance” would be rendered at a fee. Upon receiving payment, the gang would take the unsuspecting border jumpers to Sibanda’s homestead in Makakabule where they would rob them before placing them under the guard of vicious touts.
“After being robbed, some of the abductees would be transported to South Africa, not before being informed that they owed the suspects fees for the facilitation,” said Chief Supt Mukombero.
“We believe they would force some of their victims to work for an unspecified period for little remuneration. It was more like being sold into slavery.” In April this year, Ngwenya, who operates as a tout and works for Khumalo, allegedly used his boss’s Toyota Hilux truck to “assist” five Zimbabwean border jumpers.
Khumalo is said to be an unlicensed transport operator (umalayitsha) who is essentially in the business of facilitating document-free travel.
“The five had their valuables, bank cards and cash forcibly taken away from them. Some money was also later withdrawn from their bank accounts,” reads part of a police charge sheet.
“The border jumpers were kidnapped and kept at Koro village (in Makakabule). They were told that they would be taken to South Africa for a fee.”
Tshuma, a South African malayitsha, is accused of conniving with Tawanda Mutonhori, who is still at large, to lure and kidnap one of the Zimbabweans. Maphosa of Gwanda is, on the other hand, accused of luring a seven-year-old boy from Lupane and keeping him at Koro village with the intention of taking him to South Africa.