FOUR habitual armed robbers operating from South Africa and strongly suspected of being behind a spate of robberies in Zimbabwe targeting cash were on Wednesday night seriously injured following a shootout with a police crack team after being cornered in Harare’s Highfield suburb.

Abel Marufu Mukandawire (40), Francis Hazangure (46), Blessing Gamanya (32) and Edmore Marwizi Mapuranga (44) are now in hospital under heavy police guard.

Their two accomplices — Roy Mutemagazi alias Rototo and Kudakwashe Choga alias Bagiza, managed to flee during the shootout near Cyril Jennings Hall along Jabavu Drive in Old Highfield.

Police have also launched a manhunt for other suspected accomplices, Maidei Nyamukapa, Brian Murape and Dennis Matate, who are implicated in some of the armed robbery cases the gang previously committed.

Law enforcement agents have of late scored successes in accounting for armed robbers and this comes after President Mnangagwa recently sounded the death knell to drug kingpins, drug peddlers, and gun-totting robbers by directing police to smoke out and bring such characters to book.

Most of the suspects have been on police’s most wanted list and would operate from South Africa to evade arrest. They would normally enter Zimbabwe, commit robberies and then flee south across the Limpopo.

The gang targeted individuals, businesspeople and business premises where they were large amounts of cash. 

The Herald understands that on Wednesday night, detectives from the CID Homicide received information that the gang was in Highfield area using a hired Nissan X-Trail (AFL 1967) and planning to rob people.

They reacted swiftly and later pounced on five of the suspects near CJ Hall. The suspects started firing shots towards the detectives who then returned fire.

Three of the suspects —Mukandawire, Hazangure and Gamanya — were shot on their legs and arrested while Mutemagazi and Choga managed to escape.

Police recovered a 9mm Karalat Maca pistol, iron bars, crowbars, balaclavas and heavy duty hammers which were in the vehicle. 

A follow up was made and police later arrested Mapuranga at his house in the area. Mapuranga was shot on the left leg after he attempted to flee.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrests yesterday saying some of the suspects were ex-convicts who were once jailed at Chikurubi Maximum Prison in 2010.

He said the gang was linked to an armed robbery which occurred in Meyrick Park on June 21 where they robbed a couple of US$3 600 cash and two cellphones after raiding their house.

On July 28, the gang also robbed a butchery in Chitungwiza and got away with US$70, $700 and cellphones while they were using an unregistered blue Honda Fit. 

Another robbery occurred in Madokero where they stole US$800 and a Jaguar vehicle.

“The following day on July 29, the gang also attacked a couple in Seke and took US$150 cash, bank cards and seven cellphones before demanding keys to their shop,” Asst Comm Nyathi said.

After being given the keys, the robbers drove the couple to their shop while their getaway car was following from behind. 

At the victim’s shop, they destroyed some goods and property and during the process, some members of the public heard the noise and went to the scene.

The suspects then fled, leaving their getaway car and police recovered business cards, used airtime cards and three cellphones before launching a manhunt for them. 

Investigations have also revealed that Abel Marufu Mukandawire has pending charges for rape, armed robbery and aggravated indecent assault committed on October 5 last year in Waterfalls.

He allegedly committed the offence while in the company of his three other accomplices — Honest Mupfutumani, Nomore Muchazivepi and Isaac Jimu —  who are already serving a 35-year-jail term each at Chikurubi Maximum prison.

The other female suspected robber, Maidei Nyamukapa, is a daughter of a former policeman and she grew up in Mbare Police Camp.