In the mid 90s, the ZRP had a tough battle with notorious armed robbers and murderers who killed ruthlessly for money. The most notable were two fugitives - Edgar Masendeke and Stephen Chidhumo - whose reign of terror in and around Zimbabwe between October 1994 and September 1997 sent shivers down the spine of Zimbabwean citizens and also gave the police sleepless nights.

Chidhumo, who was an ex-convict having served a four year jail term for car theft in 1991 went on an armed robbery spree after his release in October 1994. He was re-arrested in Bulawayo but he escaped from police custody in Masvingo in May 1995 only to be recaptured by Mutare Police Dog Section a month later.

Masendeke and Chidhumo’s alliance began when the two were at Mutimurefu Remand Prison. The two fugitives together with Langton Moses Zano, Langton Charumbira and Jameson Maverudze Musara escaped from Mutimurefu Prison in November 1995. They forced prison guards into the cells before walking away. Masendeke and Chidhumo then went on a series of armed robberies and murders in Masvingo and Manicaland Provinces. They were involved in several skirmishes with the police and somehow managed to evade arrest on several times.

Chidhumo was to be arrested at a later date in Mozambique and was charged and found guilty on 24 counts of various crimes and was sentenced to 30 years by a Masvingo Magistrate after a Regional Magistrate, Mr Selo Nare had sentenced him to 42 years for other offences which he committed in Manicaland. He was sent to Chikurubi Maximum Prison to serve his sentence.

Chidhumo’s arrest meant that his partner in crime, Masendeke became a lone ranger and continued on a series of robberies some of which he committed in Kwekwe.

In August 1997, Chidhumo made history and in a movie like style escaped from Chikurubi Maximum Prison with three others – ex-policeman Pedzisai Musariri, ex-soldier Elias Chauke and Mariko Ngulube. Musariri was shot dead, Chauke was recaptured and Ngulube died from serious wounds sustained during the escape. Chidhumo managed to escape unscathed and rejoined his longtime fugitive friend Masendeke.

Following a series of operations by the ZRP, Masendeke was to be arrested on his way to Chimoio near Susunhenga. Two weeks later, Chidhumo who was an alleged son of a BSAP member and a Karateka of repute was arrested in Beira by a team of the Mozambican Police and Zimbabwe Republic Police.

The two were convicted for several armed robbery cases, attempted murder and murder among other offences and were sent to the gallows in 2002.

The arrest of the two notorious criminals brought back sanity in the country as well as restored the confidence which the public have towards the ZRP.

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