Five suspected armed robbers believed to be part of a gang that robbed farmers of their tobacco bales in the dead of the night at gunpoint, have been arrested following a shoot-out with the police.
Scores of farmers have lost tobacco to gangs of robbers on their way to the auction floors in Harare, with the bulk of cases occurring in Belvedere along Rekayi Tangwena Avenue, Waterfalls and Southerton.
Cephas Maisiri (19), Kudakwashe Maisiri (20), Sean Meki (27), Simbarashe Chukutuva (35) and Obey Mbofana (33) were arrested following a trap by detectives who posed as farmers.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrests.
"Following an increase in cases of armed robbery and theft involving tobacco bales, police officers in Harare were deployed within the Central Business District and all feeder roads used by farmers to ferry tobacco to the auction floors with a view of accounting for the culprits," he said.
"On July 9 at around 4am, a team of police officers posed as tobacco farmers transporting tobacco bales. They were suddenly accosted by the five accused persons who were using three vehicles -- a Toyota Wish, Mazda B2200 and a Mazda 323 Familia."
Asst Comm Nyathi said some of the robbers fired gunshots in the air to instil fear, while their accomplices offloaded the tobacco bales.
Maisiri was arrested at the scene, while his accomplices sped off in getaway vehicles.
"The four accused persons were later arrested while hiding in Highfield and are now waiting for their court date," said Asst Comm Nyathi.
"Police managed to recover two of the getaway vehicles -- a Mazda Familia and a Mazda pick-up."
Asst Comm Nyathi warned farmers against transporting their produce during the night.