Mental scars of armed robbery victims

03 Oct, 2022 - 00:10 0 Views
Mental scars of armed robbery victims Armed robbery

The Chronicle

Nqobile Bhebhe, Senior Business Reporter

BULAWAYO has been hit by a spate of armed robberies, some fatal, mainly targeting financial institutions and business people who keep huge amounts of foreign currency at home.

 The armed robbers are so daring that they strike in broad daylight in full view of clients and staff, leaving victims and witnesses shocked and traumatised.

 Mr Albert Ncube (34), a regular client of several money transfer agencies in Bulawayo, is one such victim.

 On 10 March last year, Mr Ncube left Magwegwe West for the city centre to collect money at Access Finance Bureau De Change situated at Parkade Centre at the corner of Fife Street and 9th Avenue when a gang of six armed robbers pounced.

 They struck at 8am just after a security van had delivered cash. The cash-in-transit team from Fawcett Security was disarmed and the robbers drove off with huge sums of money in the company’s truck which was later abandoned.

  “That robbery episode still troubles me. It took me several months to gain courage to pass through that bureau de change, let alone the whole building. 

 “I do not know whether the guns were real or not but the fact that they pointed the guns at us, ordered us to lie down is traumatic,” says Mr Ncube.

 So traumatic was the ordeal that he pleaded with his parents in the diaspora not to send money to him, but to his sister.

 “Between March and June, my sister was collecting the money. It has since changed because she is now in South Africa.”

 Last week, there was confusion when police cordoned off streets leading to Fidelity Building at Corner 11th Avenue and Fife Street, where suspected armed robbers were reportedly holed up.

 The armed robbers reportedly sneaked out with US$6 270 as well as R5 000 from one of the offices in the 12-storey building before police were called to the scene.

 Early this month, five armed robbers pounced on CBZ Bank’s Fife Street branch around mid-day and got away with US$70 000.

CBZ Holdings

 A month before, armed robbers raided a Mukuru branch in the city centre and got away with more than US$100 000.

  The branch is situated along 10th Avenue between Fife Street and George Silundika Street.

 The branch mostly services clients who will be receiving money from international financial agents.

The Mukuru Bureau De Change

 Last year in March, two burglars raided Mukuru Send Money Home transfer agent in Bulawayo at Zapalala Supermarket along Jason Moyo Street between 9th and 10th Avenues.

 They got away with more than US$17 000 and R100 000 in what was suspected to be an inside job.

 It was not clear what time the burglars broke into the shop, but the raid was discovered when the money transfer agent employees reported for duty at about 6.45am the following day.

 In some cases, suspects masqueraded as genuine customers and queued just like everyone else before pouncing on unsuspecting victims.

 Narrating his experience, another bureau de charge client Sicelo Nxumalo (47) said she was nearly caught up in a robbery and witnessed it a few metres away.

 She witnessed a robbery at Mukuru Send Money Home transfer agent in Bulawayo at Zapalala Supermarket along Jason Moyo Street between 9th and 10th Avenues.

Honda Fit

 “One morning, I had intended to collect money from one agency at Zapalala Supermarket when I spotted a Honda Fit with no registration numbers. I became suspicious because it was at a time when police were impounding unregistered vehicles countrywide.

“As I got closer to the branch, there was commotion outside with people screaming, some lying down. I then spotted the unregistered Honda Fit taking off at high speed and realized it was a robbery,” she narrated.

She collected her money a week later.

Following an increase in armed robbery cases, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has since issued an amnesty to all members of the public in possession of unregistered firearms and ammunition to surrender them to the police

The amnesty which started on August 8 will run until the end of this month.

As of 19 September, police said the number of firearms voluntarily surrendered to the police during the operation termed, “Firearms Amnesty,” stood at 455 and 260 rounds of ammunition.

Local psychologist, Miss Jacqueline Nkomo said with the rise in armed robberies, there is urgent need for financial services to have counselling departments that cater for robbery victims.

he noted that in some instances if robbery victims do not undergo counselling sessions, some might develop panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental health condition that develops following a traumatic event, it is characterised by intrusive thoughts about the incident, recurrent distress/anxiety, flashback and avoidance of similar situations.

“There is a need for banks and money agencies and any other company to have a counselling department in their business set up where someone can go and vent out what they are going through. We become reactive rather than being proactive.

“Business premises are like home away from home and when you get attacked at work, what are the chances of you going back to the same place the following day? It’s a difficult thing. If the companies really care about their employees and clients they will offer counselling services. As much as people might think this is a light matter, there are chances that victims can develop PTSD, insomnia and panic attacks.

“For instance, if  a teller on counter number four and gets attacked, reports for duty the  following day, sits in that same counter where  a gun was pointed at, whether it was a toy gun or water gun, that incident will keep on playing in his or her mind.

“Unless they open up about it, in some cases it’s a challenge to get over the incident. They keep looking over their shoulder thinking the incident will happen all over again. The incident might lead to mild or chronic depression, struggling to focus at work with some resorting to drugs and substance abuse. If employers really care about their workers welfare, there is a need to take the victims for counselling. Some clients might develop panic attacks.

“As for clients, again if the financial services firms care about them and want to maintain a good image and retain their clients, there is a need to introduce counselling. This would give a good image to the banks and money transfer agencies,” said Miss Nkomo.

Banking expert and Bulawayo businessman, Mr Morris Mpala is also of the view that counselling services are now essential.

“I think going forward it will be advisable to offer these counselling services because these are traumatising experiences not just to the victims but to most potential victims. There is a need for psychological conditioning  sessions to understand these unfortunate incidents and at times life threatening.”



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