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How a cunning thief stole Mugabe’s electric train project!

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How a cunning thief stole Mugabe’s electric train project!

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His word was law The Government of Zimbabwe introduced the electric train from Dabuka in Gweru to Harare, amidst much pomp and fanfare.
When it happened, the then leader of the country Robert Gabriel Mugabe made a fiery speech about how the Zanu PF government was poised to take the country into the space age.
That never happened.
Quite to the contrary, Zimbabwe regressed to the stone age, with the railway system becoming completely dysfunctional.
But the story is not about Zanu PF’s ineptitude, it is about theft.
The electric cables which powered the trains were made of copper. Massive masts connecting thick copper cables to the train were erected along the railway line, mostly in the thickets between Dabuka in Gweru and the capital city Harare.
Copper is a precious mineral. It fetches good prices on the black market, especially in South Africa.
The fact that the train copper cables passed through the jungle for the most part, made the copper cables an easy target for thieves.
Theft of railway copper cables became rampant.
The National Railway of Zimbabwe (NRZ) had a Security branch. Theft of railway copper cables caused the NRZ security department great distress.
A man called “The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious” organized his gang and targeted the portion of the railway cables at Sherwood near Kwekwe. His gang cut copper cables weighing 2113 (two thousand one hundred and thirteen) kilograms from the railway system and concealed the loot in the bush. They sneaked away to plan how they’d retrieve their treasure.
An NRZ security patrol discovered the cache which had been left by The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious.
They decided to set up an ambush, and involved the police. Police and NRZ security details hid themselves a distance away from the heap of copper cables, armed to the teeth.
They lay in wait. For days.
The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious had great taste. He rented an opulent house in Westgate, Harare, and lived with a beautiful paramour. The paramour was truly appealing. Her name should be Appeal, by virtue of her appealing beauty. So Appeal we shall call her.
Appeal was later to appear in Court in a case involving theft of copper cables.
This is how it happened.
The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious rounded up his gang and drove his blue 2 tonner truck to Sherwood to pick up his loot.
He chose his pick up time with care. 03:00 hrs. No one would be up at such an ungodly hour.
The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious drove in a wide circle around his loot. Its called reconnaissance. He wanted to be sure that he wasn’t walking into a trap.
The joint operation between NRZ security and the police was led by Big Eddie, a Detective lnspector who himself was a veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. Guerilla warfare had taught him that the greatest discipline in warfare was patience. He spoke quietly to his team in a measured voice;
“There is no doubt that
the lights of that car
which you see going
round our position
belong to the car which
has come for the
copper. Don’t move
from your hiding
position until they start
loading. I will give you
the signal to move in
for the arrest.
Remember we are
taking them alive and
no one fires his gun at
any suspect without my
express authority. This
is an arrest, not a war.
Has everyone
understood?”
Everyone nodded with solemn understanding.
“Take your positions
then”
Big Eddie gave the order calmly, casually.
Big Eddie’s men disappeared into their hiding places, each hiding place having been earlier chosen carefully by Big Eddie himself. Their hiding positions formed a bull’s horns shape around the heap of copper.
Everyone obeyed Big Eddie without question. Men moved easily under Big Eddie’s command.
His word was law.
The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious parked the blue 2 tonner truck a distance from the heap of copper. He ordered two of his gang members to walk on foot to check whether everything was ok.

The two copper cable thieves walked on foot and reached the pile of copper and inspected the sorrounding area.
From their hiding places, Big Eddie and his men heard the the two copper cable thieves chatting nervously;
“Do you think it’s safe to
do the pick up?”
“Yeah, everything
seems fine.”
They signalled the truck to draw near.
Whilst the 2 tonner truck crawled towards the heap of copper, one of the copper cable thieves who had walked ahead to inspect the loot walked a short distance into the bush. He whipped out his manhood and started shooting hot urine into the soil. Wet soil splashed and splattered and scattered from the jet of urine. The muddy urine landed on Big Eddie’s face and mouth, as he lay on his stomach in his hiding place behind a bunch of bushes.
Big Eddie did not flinch.
The blue 2 tonner truck reversed through the gap of the bull’s horns shape created by the ambush of hiding officers, straight onto the heap of copper, straight into the trap set by Big Eddie and his armed men. The 2 tonner truck switched off its lights. The copper cable thieves began to load their precious cargo, working in the darkness of the darkest hour which comes soon before dawn.
Their hearts pounded with excitement. They’d be rich men by crack of dawn.
But the Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious did not cut the engine. He kept it running. Neither did he disembark from the driver’s seat..
The natural alert instincts of a career thief gave The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious a sixth sense. A sense of foreboding. A sixth sense that always sniffed and sensed danger.
At that very moment, Big Eddie rose from his hiding place aiming his pistol right ahead and yelled in a thunderous voice;
“Freeeeeeeeeeeze! You
are under arrest for
violating the Copper
Control Act.”
Big Eddie’s men shot out of their hiding places and charged at the copper cable thieves, pistols aiming forward.
The 2 tonner truck which was being driven by the Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious switched on its headlights. It roared and revved and raced forward, skidding in the dew of early morning dawn, fleeing with a few kilograms of copper cables, fleeing from a mandatory prison term of 12 (twelve) years.
In the heat of armed police duties, the decision of whether or not to shoot to kill, should be made in a split of a second.
Big Eddie reasoned fast. Three copper cable thieves were being handcuffed. A heap of copper cables lay before him. He had enough evidence to send the three copper cable thieves who were being handcuffed by his team to prison for a long time. The mission was as good as accomplished. There was plenty of time to pursue the fleeing truck driver later. Why kill him?
So Big Eddie aimed and fired at the rear wheel of the fugitive truck, flattening it’s left tyre.
That’s how the Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious escaped, driving like crazy into the morning dawn, punctured tyre and all. He dumped the car near Sable Chemicals towards Kwekwe. He continued his flight from justice on foot and any form of transportation he could find. He never stopped until he got to the small town of Rustenburg in South Africa.
Although he was disappointed that the truck driver escaped, Big Eddie did not show it. He praised his team for the arrest of the 3 (three) copper cable thieves, while he phoned for the NRZ backup truck which was on standby to come pick them up..
The three copper cable thieves were roughed up a bit by their captors. Big Eddie did not participate in the mild torture, neither did he restrain his subordinates. The thieves must understand that they’d been subdued, and that someone else was in charge.

When the NRZ backup truck arrived, the thieves and their stolen copper were bundled into it, while Big Eddie continued, on his walkie talkie, to alert all units to be on the lookout for the fleeing blue 2 tonner truck.
Upon approaching Sable Chemicals on its way to Kwekwe, the driver of the NRZ truck which carried Big Eddie’s men and their prisoners spotted the blue 2 tonner truck parked on the extreme left side of the road.
It still had a few kilograms of copper cables at the back. Big Eddie arranged that it be towed to Station.
The three copper cable thieves who had been arrested by Big Eddie’s crew were hardened criminals. They refused to co-operate with the police. They maintained that they did not know the man who had fled in the blue 2 tonner truck, and reiterated that the 2 tonner truck driver had hired them to help him load his goods, that’s all.
Big Eddie met with the Prosecutor to discuss strategy. The Prosecutor agreed to place the three copper cable thieves on remand, and keep them in custody for as long as possible to give Big Eddie a chance to apprehend the Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious.
The three copper cable thieves thus appeared before a Kwekwe Magistrate, and were remanded in custody awaiting trial.
Big Eddie got to work. A search with the Central Vehicle Registry revealed that the blue 2 tonner truck was registered in the name of a man with an address in Highfield Harare. Big Eddie paid him a visit.
The Highfield man produced proof that he had sold the blue 2 tonner truck to the Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious some six months ago. The proof produced by the Highfield man showed that the Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious had an address in Glen Norah A, Harare.
Big Eddie felt that he was making progress, but was cautious not to call it a breakthrough. All he had was a name and an address. Catching the thief was a different ball game altogether.

Big Eddie visited the address in Glen Norah A. His police instincts told him that it would be unlikely to find the Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious there present. He must make up a story which did not raise suspicion, which story could probably help him get close to the Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious, if he didn’t find him there.

Big Eddie and onether Detective found a beautiful middle-aged woman and a 12 year old boy at the Glen Norah A address.

As Big Eddie had predicted, the Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious wasn’t there. He had not been staying there for over a year now, but passed through once in a while to drop something for his 12 year old son.
No, the beautiful middle-aged woman and her 12 year old son didn’t know where The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious was staying, but why were they looking for him?
Big Eddie told his cover story. He was an old friend. He’d heard that The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious had bought a truck. He wanted to hire the truck to ferry his building material to his rural home in Chihota.
The beautiful middle-aged woman relaxed, but she still didn’t know how Big Eddie could make contact with the Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious. She didn’t have his phone number. He no longer paid rent for where they were staying. All she’d heard was that The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious was now staying in the suburbs, enjoying himself with another woman.
Big Eddie believed her.
Big Eddie and his collegue bade their farewell and walked to their unmarked car.

Before Big Eddie and his collegue reached their unmarked car, the 12 year old boy caught up with them and said;
“I know where my
father stays. I found
this receipt in the paper
bag he brought to me
when he bought soccer
boots for me last year. I
couldn’t tell my mother
because she may
cause trouble for him.
They are always
fighting with each other
Please don’t tell my
mother where my
father stays.”
Big Eddie looked at the receipt closely. It was actually a delivery note which showed that The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious had bought a chest of drawers from a furniture shop called Pelham’s, which was supposed to be delivered at an address in Westgate, Harare.

Big Eddie’s heart was pounding, but he didn’t change his expression.

He scribbled the address in his notebook and returned the delivery note to the 12 year old boy, thanked him, and drove off with his partner.

As he drove around Westgate looking for the address, Big Eddie was in a dilemma. Should he approach the property, or should he watch it? If he approached the property and found his suspect absent, chances are that The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious would be tipped that the police were on his tail, and he’d vanish into thin air. All the information gathered thus far would be rendered useless. But if he remained in the shadows, maybe, just maybe the Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious would show up, believing he was safe. It was a long shot. But charging a scene blindly was equally risky, as it carried with it the likelihood of alerting the quarry, if it so happened he wouldn’t be around to be arrested when they charged. The odds cancelled each other out. He wasn’t sure what to do.

Meanwhile, The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious kept in touch with Appeal while he was in the South African town of Rustenburg. He never disclosed his location, but kept on reassuring Appeal of his undying love for her, and that everything was fine. He would be home as soon as possible, he said. Had anyone called asking for him? No, no-one had called, Appeal would reply.

Big Eddie found the address he was looking for in Westgate and parked a distance away. He waited. And watched. His collegue was getting restless, but Big Eddie ignored him.

Nothing happened at the Westgate address for the greater part of the day. Towards sunset, a youth who wore glasses and was carrying a satchel on his back sauntered to the gate at the Westgate address, unlocked it and entered.

Certainly not The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious. A High School or tertiary student? Big Eddie wondered.

Big Eddie decided against any attempt to satisfy his curiosity. This was too delicate a scene. He left the Westgate address.

Upon arrival at his home station, Big Eddie, after briefing them truthfully, had a heated debate with his bosses. The bosses wanted to charge the scene, but Big Eddie recommended a stake out in terms of which the police would lie in wait observing the goings-on at the address, and only charge to arrest the target when they spot him.

Big Eddie was outnumbered, but he continued to argue his case with composure, pointing out the advantages of using the information they have to effect a sure arrest, instead of squandering it on an uncertain and unverified chance.

Big Eddie’s bosses reluctantly agreed to give Big Eddie’s suggestion a chance.

But the stake out didn’t yield results. The Prosecutor could not continue to stall and buy time for Big Eddie. She was forced to go to trial with the three copper cable thieves only, but without The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious.

The three copper cable thieves maintained their defence. They told the Magistrate that they had been hired to help the truck driver load his stuff. They swore they didn’t know it was was stolen copper. They testified they didn’t know the man called The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious, the man who hired them and later fled the scene.

The Prosecutor led evidence from Big Eddie and his men who gave a detailed account of how the three copper cable thieves were arrested.

The Magistrate listened carefully to all the evidence. At the end of it all, he reasoned in his judgement that the circumstances sorrounding the arrest of the three copper cable thieves showed that they were acting in cahoots with The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious. The fact that they rounded the copper cache many times whilst they were in the 2 tonner truck, the fact that two of them walked ahead to inspect whether it was safe to pick up the copper cache, and the fact that they chose a sneaky time to pick up the shipment, all point to a deliberate attempt to avoid detection. The only inescapable conclusion to be drawn from their stealthy complicit conduct could only be that they were acting in common purpose with the driver, in executing a pre-planned criminal enterprise.

The Magistrate convicted all three of theft of 2113kg of copper cables and sentenced each of them to 12 years imprisonment with labour.

The result did not erase the hunger in Big Eddie to get to the root of the matter. He wanted The Cunning One Whose Crime is serious. He was clearly the mastermind.

But Big Eddie had no choice in the matter. His bosses had given him the order to disband the the stake out as there were no resources to sustain it, neither was there any real possibility it would yield anything.

So it was with a heavy heart that Big Eddie drove to Harare to pick up his men who had been deployed for the stake out.

Instead of driving back to Kwekwe that same day as he had been instructed to do by his bosses, Big Eddie decided to extend the stake out by one night. He was himself losing faith in the efficacy of the stake out, but stayed the night hoping that if it yielded nothing, it would help cure his frustrations, and convince him that it wasn’t the correct strategy for catching The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious.

Big Eddie positioned the two cars at his disposal in strategic positions, one a distance away from the front gate of the Westgate address, the other in the street behind it.

They waited.

After every two hours or so he gave the order that the two cars exchange positions. If the same car remained in the same position for too long, it would attract suspicion.

Nothing happened at the Westgate address. No one got in. No one got out.

At around 02:00 hrs, a white one tonner truck drove slowly past the Westgate address.

It came back after a few minutes, driving in the same direction. From the driver’s seat of the unmarked car which was parked some 50 metres away, Big Eddie observed as it stopped in front of the Westgate address. A middle aged man disembarked from the front passenger seat, and walked directly to the gate of the Harare address, unlocked it and walked in. The one tonner truck which had dropped him drove away.

Big Eddie waited, his police antannae up.

This must be it.

Big Eddie signalled the men in the car which was parked in the rear street of the Westgate address:

“Suspected target
spotted. Scale the
durawall and land
inside the target’s
address.”

Big Eddie and three other detectives scaled the front durawall of the Westgate address and landed inside. Two detectives hid in the shadows while Big Eddie knocked the front door;

“Police. Open the door.”

There was the loud sound of shattering glass as The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious broke out through the rear window of the bedroom.

Three armed detectives who were in the car which was behind the Westgate address approached him, pistols aiming at his forehead;

“Lie on the ground with
your hands behind the
back of your head.”

When The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious didn’t comply, a detective moved swiftly behind him, grabbed and twisted his arm, and handcuffed him.

The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious was brought before Big Eddie. Big Eddie said;

“You who were
fugitives from justice
are fugitives no more.
I have a warrant to
search your house.
Please let us in.”

The detectives searched the house and found nothing. During the search Big Eddie saw a youth who was terrified who came out of one of the bedrooms. He wore glasses. Big Eddie remembered him from the first day he found the Westgate address. Why was he wearing glasses at this ungodly hour, Big Eddie wondered. Big Eddie asked for keys to the rear cottage. No one answered. He ordered his men to break the door and enter.

Big Eddie’s men rejoiced and reported to him that there was a heap of copper cables in the cottage.

The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious refused to comment about the copper cables which were found in the cottage.

When he eventually made a statement at Kwekwe police station on a charge of possessing 603 kilograms of copper cables which were recovered from the Westgate address without a requisite licence, The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious said;

“I do not own the
property situate at the
Westgate address,
neither do I stay there.
I had gone there to visit
my girlfriend when the
police arrested me.
Why don’t you ask my
girlfriend about the
copper? She owns the
place.”

So Big Eddie foned Appeal and asked her to come to Kwekwe. She complied. Big Eddie spoke to her. He was uncomfortable. He had never seen such a sensuous and beautiful woman. Why do gorgeous women waste themselves on criminals, he wondered.

Appeal’s defence was helpless and unhelpful. No, she didn’t put the copper in the cottage. No, she doesn’t know who put it there. Yes, The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious is her lover. He comes over to the Westgate address and sometimes stays. No, she didn’t see him stash the copper into the cottage. Yes, the Westgate address is her property.

So both Appeal and The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious were remanded in custody pending their trial on allegations of the illegal possession of 603 kg of copper.

Now, there were two different cases. The first one was about The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious and the theft of 2113 of copper from Sherwood. Three copper cable thieves were already serving 12 jail year terms for it. The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious was supposed to be tried for it…

The second one was about both The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious and Appeal, involving the 603 kg of copper that was found at the Westgate address.

The Prosecutor charged The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious, on his own, with one count of Theft of 2013 kg of copper cables.

In his defence, The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious said he had hired out his truck to a named individual on the day the three copper cable thieves were arrested. The three copper cable thieves were called to Court from prison and they said, pointing at The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious;

“This is not the man
who hired us to load
his stuff. Your Worship
the police have the
wrong man.”

The Magistrate analysed the evidence and said;

“The police officers and
the NRZ officers who
were at the scene
could not positively
identify the Cunning
One Whose Crime is
Serious as the person
who was driving the
truck. In fact, from their
own evidence, they
never saw him at the
scene. They thus don’t
know who sped off in
the blue 2 tonner truck.
I find that there is no
evidence linking the
Accused to the theft
of 2113 kg of copper.
Accordingly, he is found
NOT GUILTY and
acquitted.”

Big Eddie did not despair on account of the acquittal. The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious still had to answer charges concerning the 603 kg of copper cables which were recovered at the Westgate address.

His only hope.

The Prosecutor charged both The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious and the delectable lady called Appeal with the illegal possession of 603 kg of copper.

Both The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious and Appeal put forth a cut throat defence, that is, each blamed the other for the presence of the 603 kg of copper at the Westgate address.

Appeal’s family realized that anything could happen to Appeal. They scratched and begged and hustled until they hired a lawyer for Appeal.

The lawyer studied the case and said, we have to conduct our own investigations.

The date of trial arrived. The lawyer parked his car inside Kwekwe Magistrate Court and walked into Court.

Inside the courtroom, was Big Eddie. The lawyer and Big Eddie greeted each other with uproarious laughter. They were friendly adversaries, having had countless courtroom battles in the past. Each respected the other.

After the closure of the State case, the lawyer called Appeal to the witness stand. She said she knew nothing about the copper found at the Westgate address. On the instigation of the lawyer, she produced a passport which showed that she was in Malawi for the greater part of March of the relevant year. The lawyer sat down.

Big Eddie wondered whether his friendly adversary had lost his marbles. What was the meaning of this?

But the Magistrate was saying;

“Counsel for Accused 2,
do you have onether
witness?”

Appeal’s lawyer rose and said;

“Yes your Worship, l will
call “Observant” as my
second and final
witness.”

Upon the prompting of the police officer who maintains order in Court who is known as “Court Orderly,” a youth who wore glasses disembarked from the lawyer’s car and took the witness stand.

Big Eddie smiled to himself, he had seen Observant twice. First, he saw Observant when Big Eddie first found the Westgate address. He saw Observant enter the Westgate address carrying a satchel on his back. Secondly, he saw Observant as he ran from his bedroom in a state of fright on the day The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious was arrested.

But Observant was now on the witness stand.

Observant said;

Appeal, who was being referred to as Accused 2 in Court, was his mother’s elder sister. The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious, who was being referred to as Accused 1 in Court, was Accused 2’s lover.

The two Accused persons were therefore , according to African custom, his own parents.

He himself was a student at UZ, and had been staying with both Accused persons at the Westgate address..

In March of the relevant year, so said Observant, Accused 2 left for Malawi. During Accused 2’s absence, one stormy night, he heard a truck roar in the yard of the Westgate address. He peeped through the window of his bedroom and saw Accused 1’s blue 2 tonner truck reversing towards the cottage. Accused 1 himself was walking behind the truck, directing the driver towards the cottage.

Observant told the Court that he was watching when Accused 1 and the driver offloaded the merchandise into the cottage, the same merchandise which was recovered by the police on the day of Accused 1’s arrest, the same merchandise which he was seeing in Court as an exhibit.

The lawyer showed Observant Appeal’s passport. Observant said;

“This confirms what l’ve
been saying. Accused 2
was in Malawi at the
time when Accused 1
brought the copper
to the Westgate
address.”

After the evidence of Observant, the lawyer closed his case.

The Magistrate was brief and to the point;

“I find that there is no
evidence which shows
that Appeal knew of the
existence of the copper
at the Westgate
address. But the
evidence shows that
Accused 1 brought the
603 kg of copper to the
Westgate address .
Accordingly, l find
Accused 1 guilty of
the illegal possession
of 603 kg of copper. I
find Accused 2 NOT
GUILTY and acquitted.”

Appeal’s relatives who were in Court rose and applauded.

The Magistrate sentenced The One Whose Crime is Serious to 12 years in jail for the illegal possession of 603 kg of copper.

Big Eddie rose and shook the lawyer’s hands.

Two months after The Cunning One Whose Crime is Serious had started serving his sentence, Big Eddie phoned the lawyer and said;

“The Magistrate
released The Cunning
One Whose Crime is
Serious on bail
pending appeal. My
sources tell me that
The Cunning One
Whose Crime is Serious
has crossed the border
into South Africa. I
think the Magistrate
was bribed.”

The lawyer did not comment.

Big Eddie’s word was law!

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