A South African truck driver allegedly connived with two Zimbabwean truckers to steal 28 726,9 litres of diesel worth about R380 000 and fled back into the country, Zimbabwe state media has reported.
The trucker, Mxolisi Dhlamini, and his accomplices, Advance Tirivanhu (42) and Emmanuel Murwira (35) allegedly used a generator-powered pump to drain the fuel from a tanker that was carrying 39 000 litres of diesel.
This emerged when two of the accused persons, Tirivanhu of Sauerstown and Murwira of Selbourne Park approached the Bulawayo High Court seeking bail pending trial.
Tirivanhu and Murwira who are both truck drivers employed by a Bulawayo based transport company allegedly connived with Justice Musika (35), a Beitbridge based customs clearing agent and Dhlamini, the driver of the South African truck, which was hired to transport the fuel and one Gift Masuku, to steal the consignment belonging to Afric Oil Company in Beitbridge.
Dhlamini, Musika and Masuku are still at large.
The five men allegedly stole 28 726,9 litres of diesel after agreeing to meet at Malala Business Centre outside Beitbridge Town.
Tirivanhu and Murwira were released on $1 000 bail each by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva.
In their bail statement, the two applicants denied the charges.
They said there was no evidence linking them to the crime.
Tirivanhu argued that he was assigned by his employer to offer services to the South African truck which had developed a mechanical fault.
“Fuel is highly flammable and especially in Zimbabwe tankers are high risk. If a tanker is loaded with fuel, it can also be attacked. It is a norm to attend to such breakdowns and one has to carry a generator and a pump to empty it to reduce the risk and weight of the tanker,” he said.
Tirivanhu said he communicated with his managers and was advised to wait for paperwork first before offloading the fuel. Murwira said he travelled to Beitbridge to make a follow up on the paperwork.
“After two hours of waiting by my colleague, I drove a company vehicle, a Ford Ranger to Beitbridge to follow up on the paperwork, but there was nothing,” he said. Tirivanhu and Murwira said they returned to Bulawayo emptyhanded, arguing that they did not take fuel with them from the tanker.
They said the South Africa truck driver is the only one answerable for the disappearance of the diesel.
“There is nothing that suggests that we stole any fuel or acted in connivance with the South African transporter. It is clear that the complainant maliciously made a police report in his personal capacity in order to siphon money from unsuspecting people,” they argued.
The two men said the State failed to proffer compelling reasons warranting their continued detention.
The State, which was represented by Ms Sifiso Ndlovu-Sibanda opposed the application, arguing that the two men were likely to abscond given the value of the stolen fuel and gravity of the offence.
According to court papers, it was stated that between March 2 and 12 this year, the complainant received a consignment of 39 000 litres of diesel brought from South Africa in a truck and it was destined for delivery at Afric Oil depot in Beitbridge.
Dhlamini who was driving the South African registered truck allegedly connived with Musika and Masuku and they hatched a plan to steal 28 726,9 litres of diesel from the tanker so that they could sell it.
Musika then sought Tirivanhu and Murwira as buyers from Bulawayo and they agreed to meet at Malala Business Centre where the transaction was to take place.
Tirivanhu drove his employer’s truck towing a tanker and proceeded to Malala Business Centre where met Musika who was in the company of Dhlamini.
Murwira later followed Tirivanhu to Malala in a Ford Ranger, which was carrying a generator and a pump.
They parked their vehicles and siphoned 28 726,9 litres of diesel from the South African truck and loaded it into Murwira’s truck.
While in the process of draining the fuel, the accused persons were spotted by two villagers who tipped police.
Musika got R210 000 from Murwira as payment for the diesel while Tirivanhu drove to Bulawayo with the stolen fuel where they sold it.
Musika, Dhlamini and Masuku drove back to Beitbridge with the remaining 10 273,1 litres of diesel. They shared the money before Dhlamini abandoned the truck and proceeded to South Africa.
Investigations were conducted and it was established that seals on the tanker were tampered with and that 28 726,9 litres were missing and Tirivanhu and Murwira were arrested.