By Tichaona Sibanda
9 April 2010
Nathaniel Punish Mhiripiri, a ZANU PF ‘enforcer’ and an aspiring MP who shocked MDC activists in January by declaring he had ‘authority and an open licence’ to eliminate them, is now behind bars facing charges of bank robbery and murder.
Mhiripiri was last Thursday arrested by the homicide squad on allegations of supplying a firearm that was used by a gang to rob the Nyanga ZB Bank. The gang was led by Mhiripiri’s close friend, John Teramayi, alias John Cena.
Teramayi died a few days after the robbery from gunshot wounds in Durban, after he tried to flee from South African police officers who had cornered him. They were acting on information from their counterparts in Zimbabwe.
In the gang that robbed the bank in SW Radio Africa understands Mhiripiri’s late friend Teramayi teamed up with two other suspects, Tafadzwa Nindi of Rusape and Bright Madani of Headlands, to rob the bank.
Nindi and Madani were arrested after a shoot-out with police detectives three weeks ago, leading to the recovery of $59 000 and R4 000. During the shoot-out a police detective Sergeant Joseph Maximus (29) was killed by a gun that was traced back to Mhiripiri.
MDC MP for Makoni South, Pishai Muchauraya told us police in Rusape confirmed the gun used in the robbery and shoot-out was registered in Mhiripiri’s name. The gun was recovered from his farm in Rusape along the Harare-Mutare Road.
‘He was a loose cannon in ZANU PF, a hired gun for the party whose name will always be associated with terror. He is a purveyor of evil, a man who enjoys torturing and killing people, but unfortunately this time he killed one of their own, a policeman under Chihuri, the police commissioner,’ Muchauraya said.
When police pounced on Mhiripiri at his business offices he was immediately put in leg irons and looked subdued and humiliated. All he could do was shake his head in disbelief.
Mhiripiri, a safari operator who runs the Dumukwa Safari and Tours, gained notoriety for his rule of violence and intimidation across the Rusape district in Manicaland province. He instilled fear in MDC activists who say that in recent years his life was full of violence, intimidation and underworld activities.
They alleged that on many occasions he led ZANU PF youths to torture, beat up and even murder MDC activists. Police were too scared to bring him to book because of his close links to big fish in ZANU PF.
His brutality is something of a legend and his violent history can be traced to its beginning nearly eight years ago when he invaded a farmhouse in Nyazura and evicted the farmer. Soon after the presidential elections in 20002 he had gone to Abed Farm and declared himself the new owner of the farmhouse, forcing Barry Martin, the owner, off his property at gunpoint.
In January this year Mhiripiri told a ZANU PF meeting at Jani resettlement area in Makoni South that he alone in the area was ‘allowed to kill’ in the name of ZANU PF. He also told the meeting he moved around with guns in his vehicle and was always prepared to deal with ‘sell-outs.’