Poslet Mapuranga appeared in the Kimberley Magistrate's Court on Tuesday. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Kimberley - A 26-year-old Zimbabwean asylum-seeker is facing a charge of armed robbery with aggravating circumstances after two suspects robbed Hudaj Supermarket at the old Lyric Cinema last month.

Poslet Mapuranga, who owns a car mechanic business in Barkly Road, appeared in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday to apply for bail after he was arrested on June 28.

His bakkie was allegedly used as a getaway vehicle in the execution of the robbery.

The investigating officer in the case, Patrick Dibaba, testified in court on Tuesday that the incident happened at around 12.30pm on Saturday, June 28.

“The owner of the business was inside with his wife and other employees when a male, wearing a balaclava and carrying a gun, entered the premises and robbed the employees of their cellphones at gunpoint.”

According to Dibaba, while the suspect was in the building, another suspect, carrying a black bag, entered and jumped over the counter. Both men spoke in broken English.

“The second suspect stole an undisclosed amount of cash, which was behind the counter, and both suspects then fled on foot, running through the veld in the direction of Utility.”

Dibaba testified that a driver at the Hudaj Supermarket took the bakkie and drove down Recreation Road.

“He could see the suspects, who were still running. He drove around until he reached Loop Street in Utility, where he saw a bakkie standing next to a footpath which led through the veld to the business that had been robbed. The driver and three passengers were inside.”

According to Dibaba, the two suspects involved in the robbery were inside in the bakkie.

“In order to prevent the vehicle from getting away, the driver bumped into the bakkie twice. The suspects jumped out of the bakkie, the one still carrying the gun, although he had pulled the balaclava off. Both ran back into the veld.”

The driver apparently chased the two men. “One of the suspects stopped and threatened to shoot the witness before running deeper into the veld. They threw the money into a ditch and the driver took the money and went back to the getaway car.”

Dibaba said a passerby contacted the police and ADT Security also arrived.

“When I arrived on the scene, the accused, Mapuranga, had already been handcuffed by one of the security officers and was handed over to the police and arrested.”

He added that when Mapuranga was questioned about what he was doing there, he said that he had gone to collect spares and was on his way home. “He said he knew the suspects and they had phoned him to give them a lift.”

Dibaba added that the fact that Mapuranga knew both suspects by name, that this was a planned robbery and that Mapuranga’s car was being used as a getaway vehicle. “He said they were all ‘homeboys’ from Zimbabwe.”

When the police searched the veld, they found four cellphones under a tree, as well as a black and orange jacket which one of the suspects had worn during the robbery. They also found a toy gun.

“The two suspects are still at large.”

Dibaba added that he had gone to Mapuranga’s home, which he was renting with his wife and three children, on several occasions but found no-one there. “I was told by neighbours that the accused’s wife had left for Zimbabwe.”

He also found application for asylum which had been denied by Home Affairs. “The asylum application, which gave the accused 30 days to leave the country, was dated June 24 – four days before the robbery was committed”.

Dibaba requested that bail not be granted on the grounds that the accused might jeopardise the investigation by influencing the outstanding suspects, he was a flight risk and it would be very difficult to extradite him from Zimbabwe. “I believe this is a strong case because the accused knows the outstanding suspects and his car was used in the getaway.”

Mapuranga’s legal defence attorney, Pierre Visagie, pointed out that according to his client he only knew one of suspects and that he would be prepared to assist the police in his arrest. “If it was a case of him wanting to cover for his mates, he would not have given the name to the police.”

Dibaba responded that he went to three places in Galeshewe to look for the suspects but he could not find them. “All three places were the residences of Zimbabwean nationals.”

Visagie said Mapuranga had also called the police himself after the driver bumped into his vehicle. This could not be disputed by Dibaba. “It is my instruction that my client was on the scene and these guys came to him. After his bakkie was bumped, he phoned the police.”

Dibaba, however, pointed out that Mapuranga’s vehicle was not far from the scene of the crime and the two suspects were seen in his vehicle before they fled.

“I think this was a planned robbery. The route the accused took after buying the spare parts is not the standard route. I believe that he planned and executed the robbery with the other suspects.”

He added that he was not sure if the other suspects had fled the country.

Visagie stated that Mapuranga’s application for asylum had been sent to the high court for review.

“He has assets in South Africa, including a bakkie and a business which is worth R15 000, which he needs to run. He doesn’t have anything in Zimbabwe. His wife is also in court today. They are not planning to leave the country. The suspects also did not get away with any money, so there is no financial benefit waiting for Mapuranga,” Visagie stated.

The bail application was postponed in order to allow the immigration officer, who was off sick, to testify.

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