Police claim an international criminal syndicate was behind the recent theft of Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Obert Mpofu’s top-of-the-range Toyota Prado vehicle in Bulawayo.
BY SILAS NKALA
Mpofu’s vehicle was stolen on March 18 after workers at his Khanondo Car Hire company were duped into surrendering it to a man who claimed to be South African.
The man allegedly claimed he wanted to attend a wedding in Matopo in Matabeleland South, but vanished after only paying $300. Mpofu’s car worth $45 000 has not been recovered.
A Bulawayo-based cross-border driver Nqobile Mnkandla (35) was arrested on March 23 in connection with the crime.
Police made the link to the alleged international syndicate in an application for Mnkandla’s further remand after they argued his alleged accomplice was still on the run.
“The accused and his accomplice who are part of an international criminal syndicate specialising in stealing motor vehicles and selling them within Southern Africa working in cahoots, made arrangements for fake registration plates and registration book of the complainant’s vehicle to be brought to Bulawayo by the accused who is a cross-border driver,” part of theapplication by the police’s CID Vehicle Theft Squad reads.
Police said Mnkandla and his alleged accomplice, Tsekang Tsediso Ntshinye, fitted Mpofu’s case with fake registration plates soon after Khanondo employers handed them the car in the city centre.
The two allegedly drove away without being detected with the aid of the fake plates.
Mnkandla who works for Siwela Cross-border Transport was arrested after Khanondo workers made a police report.
Meanwhile, Mkandla represented by Prince Bushe, denied the vehicle theft charges when he appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Merlyn Mutshina recently. Bushe filed an application for refusal of further remand saying his client was not involved in the theft.
“My client was just unfortunate and got into a cross fire ending up involved in this case,” he said. Bushe said there was no evidence linking Mnkandla to the crime. The prosecution represented by Charles Danda is yet to respond to Bushe’s application.
Last month, the investigating officer Detective Addmore Madamure from the CID Vehicle Theft Squad, made an application for an order compelling Econet to release details of the cell number used by Ntshinye.
In his application, Madamure said Ntshinye misrepresented to Khanondo employees that he had seen the Prado at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport, where he arrived aboard a South African Airways.
“The accused was using an Econet line 0777 303 063 to communicate with employees of Khanondo Car Hire,” the investigating officer said.
“They met at Nando’s, Jason Moyo Street, where accused paid a deposit of $300 and was given the vehicle and drove away purporting to be going to Matobo.”
He said Ntshinye’s cellphone was switched off at around 4pm on March 23 and has not been switched on since.
“It has been established that the accused never arrived in the country by air, as his name does not appear on the passengers’ manifest and there was no wedding in Matobo,” Madamure said.
He said the information he needed from Econet was meant to assist in investigating the matter. Bulawayo magistrate Gladmore Mushowe granted the order.