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Churches are holy places whose role among others is to convert and shelter lost sheep like criminals and prostitutes. A place of comfort where “the one above” protects his flock and its belongings, churches also play a big role in society in times of sorrow and happiness.

But, for some criminals, churches are the ideal place to get easy money.

They are Nichodemously breaking in – stealing from the houses of God while the one above watches.

The coming in of a new breed of “rich churches” known to collect large sums of money in the form of tithes and offerings in Zimbabwe has clearly resulted in an upsurge of church break-ins.

Security is rather lax and at times doors are left open during the day.

If anything, who would steal from God and break the seventh commandment “Thou shalt not steal”?

Are the daring robbers clearly not worried about being punished by heaven?

Or is it just an act of desperation? Have they run out of places to steal?

Being robbed is traumatic to the victims, their pastors and prophets.

They cannot do much.

They fear breaking the Lord’s commandments.

Their only revenge is through prayer and the country’s justice system. And the prayers are being answered.

Last week, three robbers who broke into the Glen Norah B branch of Glad Tidings Church in Harare and stole a safe containing $30 000 were sent to jail.

Harare magistrate Mr Hosea Mujaya sentenced Prince Makodza (24) and Alouis Nyamadzawo (38) to seven years each while their accomplice, Knowledge Kamucheche (37), was sentenced to six years.

Mr Mujaya suspended two years for each sentence.

Another one-and-half years for each was suspended on condition that the three give back the money to the church.

Makodza and Nyamadzawo will serve an effective three-and-a-half years while Kamucheche wills serve two-and-a-half years.

Recently, a ZAOGA church in Vengere high-density suburb of Rusape lost $1 200 to five robbers.

Police confirmed the robbery and said Garikai Mukoyi (32), a security guard at ZAOGA Church in Vengere, Rusape, was on duty when five robbers struck.

It is alleged that Mukoyi was indoors with Joseph Muwi, who had slept in the church after a prayer session.

“Mukoyi was in the church together with Muwi. He went outside to check what was taking place after they heard voices. As soon as he opened the door, he was hit by an iron bar on the head and fell down. He was tied by a shoelace.

“Muwi, who witnessed the attack, was also hit on the right knee with an iron bar. He was also tied with a shoelace.

“The five robbers broke into the general secretary’s office and grabbed a safe which contained $1 261. The five left in a car whose model and registration number was unidentified,” said Manicaland provincial police spokesperson Inspector Enock Chi- shiri.

He added: “All public institutions should bank large sums of money.

“If they keep it in their offices they will become vulnerable to such acts of robbery especially this time of the year when we are approaching the festive sea- son.

During this time of the year people are looking for money to spend.”

In December last year, a robber pounced on Methodist Church members’ at Mupandawana Growth Point in Masvingo and took away their mobile phones and cash.

The robber sneaked into Mupandawana Methodist Church through a broken window and robbed the worshippers gathered for an all-night prayer.

The robber vanished with six cellphones, $40 and a handbag.

In November 2012, security guards at Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa’s United Family International Church premises in Chitungwiza were robbed of goods worth $13 080 by three armed robbers.

The three were later arrested.

The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStats) said recently that armed robbery and plain robbery cases were on the increase in the country.

In the first six months of this year, 355 armed robbery and 3 772 robbery cases were recorded countrywide up from 265 armed robbery and 3 474 robbery cases reported within the same period last year.

Mr Servious Madamombe, a Roman Catholic elder in Chitungwiza, said because of poverty, people can do anything in search of money.

“People have become so hard- hearted and are breaking into churches and stealing because of poverty.

“Robbers are thieves and some church leaders are thieves too because the rest of the congregants will never know how their moneys are being used in the church,” he added.

The trail of robberies does not end and are not limited to churches only.

Homes shops, supermarkets, clinics and pharmacies and schools are being terrorised by these criminals as they believe that they keep large amounts of money.

In June, two suspected notorious armed robbers who allegedly targeted fuel service stations, schools and post offices in various parts of the country were arraigned before the courts to answer 19 charges of unlawful entry and theft.

In May a serial armed robber-cum-carjacker from Shurugwi was jailed 84 years after he was convicted of 22 counts of armed robbery.

Kenneth Ndlovu (25) of Shurugwi had pleaded guilty to all 22 counts of armed robbery and possessing a firearm without a licence.

Between June last year to February this year, Ndlovu and his three accomplices – Jameson Malunga, Brilliant Mabwe and Cosmas Sayi -robbed shops, supermarkets, clinics and pharmacies using a P1 pistol stolen from Nembudziya Police Station in Gokwe North.

Source : The Herald

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