The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) working with police have busted a syndicate that was stealing brass bearings from the wagon wheel axles.
The three accused, Wantmore Masukume (33) of Chief Jahana in Insiza, Tinashe Zireva (23) of Triangle and Thulani Moyo (36) of Ascot Gweru were arrested on September 19, 2020, after a tip-off following which a trap was laid by police and NRZ security officers.
After the arrest, the railway company recovered 88 brass bearings worth US$16 510.56.
NRZ Public Relations Manager, Nyasha Maravanyika described the arrest as a “major breakthrough” for the railway company.
“Masukume and Zireva were arrested in Triangle as they looking for transport to move the brass bearings to a buyer at Lundi growth point along the Masvingo-Beitbridge road,” he said.
“Information provided by the two men led to the arrests of the alleged buyer Thulani Moyo (36) of Ascot in Gweru. The three are not employees of the NRZ.”
Maravanyika said Moyo was found with 12 empty bags meant to load the bearings and R10 500 that was to be used to pay the suppliers.
He noted NRZ has struggled with thieves targeting brass bearings from wagon wheel axles.
Mataranyika added the thieves would remove the bearings and replace them with so that their acts went unnoticed.
“The thefts would only be discovered after wagons developed a technical fault known as ‘hot box’ which occurs when the axle generates excessive heat due to the absence of a bearing. On carrying out checks, NRZ wagon examiners would find that the bearings are missing although the lids would be intact,” he said.
Maravanyika added that due to the sophistication of the thefts, it was difficult to determine when the thefts would have taken place.
Due to the nature of the theft, NRZ Security Services Branch and the police suspected that it would be inside jobs.
Maravanyika appealed to members of the public to be on the lookout and report people who tampered with railway infrastructure.
“The rail giant further appeals to the government through the judiciary to review some of the sentences meted against state infrastructure thieves and vandals for deterrent punishment,” he said.
“The NRZ has a whistle-blower programme which rewards people reporting cases of vandalism to its infrastructure or who help protect railway assets.”
The trio appeared in court in September 22, 2020 where Masukume and Zireva were sentenced to an effective 36 months in jail of which six months were suspended for five years.
A further 12 months were suspended on condition they paid back RTGS$69 700 to the NRZ by November 23, 2020.
Moyo was remanded in custody as she has another pending case involving 20 brass bearings which she had already disposed of.