Hitch-Hikers’ Hell

Musina in Limpopo Province which borders on Zimbabwe is the scene of a kidnapping syndicate that robs, rapes and goes as far as to murder their victims. A Special Assignment investigation found that the victims are Zimbabweans hitch-hiking from the border into Gauteng Province. A disturbing fact is that the kidnappers are fellow Zimbabweans who offer them a lift to Johannesburg. Once in the city, the unsuspecting victims’ documents are destroyed, they are assaulted and sometimes the women are raped whilst the kidnappers negotiate ransom with their families.

We expose a crime hotspot near the roadside where hitch-hikers are often robbed of their belongings. Women are assaulted and raped by the Goma Goma’s, an armed gang of robbers that lurk in the bush outside Musina on the road to Gauteng, near a popular hitch-hiking spot. In our investigation, we found evidence that travellers had left behind near the roadside as well as of trade in contraband goods.

In Johannesburg the police recently arrested four suspects at a house in Rabie Ridge on the outskirts of the city. They appeared in court charged with the kidnapping, murder and rape of two Zimbabwean women, Olga Gwena and Ester Mwenda. The alleged ringleaders of the kidnapping syndicate, Charles Brewer and his wife Petition Madida, were convicted for kidnapping last year and given a suspended sentence before allegedly committing more crimes. The Zimbabwean Consulate has established that the couple is from Bulawayo.

We track the kidnappers’ route from Musina to Gauteng, 560km away and interview one of the victims, Patrick Dangarembwa. He relates the modus operandi of the kidnappers and his harrowing ordeal at their hands, when they got to Johannesburg. We also speak to the Kauso brothers whose wives, Olga and Ester were murdered by the kidnappers. Sharoma Kauso’s wife Ester was burned beyond recognition by the kidnappers. He won’t return home without his wife’s body and has to wait for the results of the DNA tests to verify her identity, before he can give her a proper burial.

In this episode of Special Assignment we ask why Zimbabweans are placing themselves at great risk by resorting to hitch-hiking whilst dangerous kidnappers are at large and, whether the justice system has done enough to convict the perpetrators for these heinous crimes.

Watch “HITCH-HIKERS’ HELL” on Special Assignment, Produced by Frank Ferro

Sunday night on SABC 3 at 20h30