Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
SEVEN police officers in Gweru were arrested for allegedly extorting cash, fuel and opaque beer from bottle store and shop operators who had allegedly violated lockdown regulations in and around Gweru.
The accused persons, who are all stationed at Gweru Rural Police Station, allegedly solicited and accepted bribes from nine shop and bottle store operators between April 25 and May 1.
They allegedly shared the loot.
Constables Joyful Magumise (35), Mugwagwa Magumise (42), Goodhope Chitimbe (31), David Mandimutsira, Bruce Chikwanda, Freddy Mahupere (all 35), Tonderai Gomana (39) were arrested on Monday following a tip-off.
They appeared before Gweru Provincial Magistrate Mr Tayengwa Sangster yesterday facing bribery charges.
They were remanded out of custody to June 18 on $3 000 bail each.
Mr Sangster ordered them to reside at their given addresses and not to interfere with State witnesses.
The magistrate said he was worried that the police officers were still reporting for duty when they were facing a criminal matter.
“Police officers working in the jurisdiction where complainants are doing business and continue to be, puts some doubts in terms of justice delivery in the witnesses’ eyes. Even if they see them patrolling, it leaves questions on the intention of the employer and I’m not sure what is happening in terms of their suspension,” he said.
Prosecutor Ms Margret Mukucha told the court that police investigations were still underway.
“Police investigations are underway and we hope by the next remand date they will be complete,” she said.
It is the State case that on April 25, the accused persons hatched a plan to swindle Khumbulani Ngwenya at his shop at Shamrock Mine, Lower Gweru.
They allegedly drove to the mine and approached Mr Tawanda Ngwenya, the younger brother to Khumbulani whom they found operating without a liquor licence.
The accused persons, the court heard, allegedly took 16 cases of Chibuku Super and four cases of spirits.
Tawanda advised his brother that the police officers were in the shop.
The court heard that Khumbulani approached Cst Mugwagwa Magumise who demanded that he pays some money in order for them to return the beer they had confiscated.
The complainant succumbed to the threat and allegedly gave them $1 000 cash before they returned the cases of Chibuku Super and spirits.
Cst Mugwagwa Magumise further told Mr Ngwenya that they had used Government fuel to raid his shop and asked him to replace it or else they were going to confiscate 200 litres of diesel he was keeping in his shop.
Mr Ngwenya allegedly gave them a further $200 and 20 litres of diesel before they left.
Using the same modus operandi, the seven police officers on April 28 proceeded to Kitchenburg Farm, in the Matobo area of Gweru, where they allegedly approached Mrs Alice Chokora who operates a shop and liquor store.
Fearing that she was found illegally selling beer, Chokora bribed them with $1 000 cash.
On May 1, around 2pm, the accused persons allegedly proceeded to Ranch Farm in Lower Gweru where they approached Mr Dumoluhle Ngwenya and threatened to arrest him and confiscate his beer and that of other shop operators for allegedly selling alcohol during the lockdown period.
They allegedly ordered him to collect $150 cash from seven operators totalling $1 050 before they went away.
Police working on a tip-off, arrested the rogue police officers.
In April, 13 police officers in Bulawayo were arrested for allegedly soliciting and accepting a US$10 bribe from a commuter omnibus crew, which had allegedly violated lockdown regulations following the interception of their vehicle in the central business district.
The accused persons, stationed at Bulawayo Central Police Station, were arrested by a Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) team after an unidentified whistle-blower captured them on video while they were allegedly receiving the bribe before posting it on social media where it circulated.