FIVE men armed with a gun boarded a Musina-bound Brooklyn Bus in Bulawayo pretending to be travelling to South Africa before robbing passengers of cash and cellphones after ordering the driver to stop the bus in Mbalabala, police confirmed yesterday.

Thirty one passengers lost their valuables to the armed gang during the incident which occurred at around 11PM on Monday.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the incident and said investigations were underway.

“We are investigating a case of armed robbery which occurred last night (Monday) at around 11PM in Mbalabala. We will give more details on the incident in due course,” said Asst Comm Nyathi yesterday.

Sources said the suspects were part of 36 passengers who boarded the bus in Bulawayo on Monday night.

As the bus approached Mbalabala near Irisvale turn off at around 11PM, one of the men drew a gun, fired a warning shot and ordered the driver to stop the bus.

“The five men were among passengers that boarded the bus which was on its way to Musina from Bulawayo and they were also booked and given tickets. One of them produced a gun, fired warning shots and ordered the driver to stop and passengers to lie on the floor.

“The other four men joined in and they ransacked the bus. They ordered passengers to hand over their valuables and got away with cell phones, passports, money and purses,” said a source that preferred anonymity.

The gang disappeared into the night after the robbery.

Cross border travellers are increasingly being targeted by armed robbers while travelling in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The suspects prey on them because they will be carrying cash to buy goods in the neighbouring country.

Last week, police arrested three armed robbers who had been on the run for about a month after they reportedly robbed passengers that were travelling in a bus from Harare to Beitbridge.

Jabson Shonhe (39) from Beitbridge, Augustus Sinanda (34) from Gokwe and Freddy Chihwana (28) from Harare pounced on a Regestep Bus on December 31 at around 4AM and fled with R5 500, $220 bond and eight cell phones.

Police arrested the suspects after a tip off.

Three buses, Intercape, Intercity and Mzansi carrying Zimbabwean passengers have previously been robbed at gunpoint along the Musina -Johannesburg highway.chronicle