Norton highway robbers sentenced to a total of 25 years; and the call for tighter identity checks in the criminal justice system


NORTON – Four men, convicted convicted of a series of highway robberies in Norton, have been sentenced to a total of 25 years in prison by Norton Magistrate Christina Nyandoro. 

Four men, convicted convicted of a series of highway robberies in Norton, have been sentenced to a total of 25 years in prison by Norton Magistrate Christina Nyandoro.

Aaron Chitsamba (20), Joseph Mwale (27), Stanford Chiripanyanga (18) and Callan Chimedza (20) were convicted after a full trial on six of the seven robbery counts they were facing. 

These include a carjacking on 9 March 2022 at Porta Bus Stop in Norton, where they made off with a Toyota Vitz and other valuables belonging to George Tapuwa Mapurisa. 

Nine days later, a few metres down the highway, they robbed Mark Yarukani of a Toyota Allex vehicle and other valuables at Cassa Bus Stop.

They waited another nine days before making another hit at the same place, robbing Norman Gatawa of a Honda Fit vehicle and other valuables.

Thompson Ngwenya was their victim on 21 March 2022, losing a Toyota Corolla and other valuables to the gang at Family 24 Bus Stop.

On 9 April 2022, they waylaid Fidelis Mutsvangwa at Family 24 Bus Stop and robbed him of a Toyota Airwave vehicle laden with domestic appliances and other valuables. 

Five days later, they took a Nissan Sulphy Bluebird and other belongings from Dellan Mlonde.

Their preferred modus operandi was to board their victims’ cars as innocent hitch-hikers, then grab the driver on stopping at their purported drop-off points.

The State, represented by public prosecutor Arthur Bosha, successfully nailed the blame on the four, leading to the sentencing on Wednesday 3 April, 2024 at Norton Magistrates Courts.

Chitsamba, Mwale and Chiripanyanga will each serve eight years behind bars, while Chimedza will serve 18 months.

Magistrate Nyandoro said none of the accused had shown remorse for their misdeeds and a custodial sentence to each was the only way to justice for the case. 

She imposed restitution conditions which may see each of the four serving a longer term if they fail to repay their victims for their losses.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that the criminal justice delivery system is leaving identity loopholes being manipulated by criminals to their advantage. 

These include the ability to switch identities for each crime, thereby walking away with first-offender sentences.

Although not a documented repeat offender, the case of Aaron Chitsamba, who is listed as a 20-year-old in the latest case, might point to age-cheating, another loophole available to criminals. 

Four years ago, an Aaron Chitsamba appeared before Harare magistrate Rumbidzayi Mugwagwa on charges including robbery and rape. He was listed as 21-years-old in court documents at the time.

The chances of two different individuals sharing the same name and surname, and of around the same age, committing the same crime in a radius of forty kilometres are as remote as the same soccer player scoring a goal, or receiving a red card, in exactly the 10th minute for two games in a row. 

It is possible, but would under normal reckoning elicit suspicions.

Hence the suspicions over Chitsamba. 

If he is the same Chitsamba arraigned before the courts in Harare four years ago, then it confirms a need for a greater collaboration between law enforcement authorities and the courts.

Because it now means Aaron Chitsamba “grew” one year younger in the four years since his appearance before a Harare magistrate in 2020.

Although the most-preferred method in the criminal justice system is DNA and fingerprints, other jurisdictions also rely on photography. The old mugshot taken at the police station upon arrest remains a good way of checking if someone has been “here” before.

However, without more concrete evidence or data, it is a strenuous task to determine the extent of this problem in the country.

While the coincidence of the name, age, and crime type is indeed suspicious, it’s not definitive proof without further investigation. It would require more rigorous methods, such as biometric identification or DNA testing, to confirm. 

But perhaps there is no smoke without fire

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