TWO Bulawayo Polytechnic engineering students who robbed a Mukuru outlet, two Simbisa retail outlets and several houses in Bulawayo told the court that flashy lifestyles displayed on social media by celebrities influenced them to commit the crimes.
They were yesterday each sentenced to an effective 11 years in jail for the crimes committed between March and September.
Lenny Ryan Mupande (21) of Gweru and Bezel Chirova (21) from Njube suburb in Bulawayo were convicted on their own pleas to two counts of attempted armed robbery and armed robbery by Bulawayo regional magistrate Mr Elijah Singano.
They were each sentenced to 16 years in jail of which five years were suspended for five years on condition that they do not within that period commit a similar offence.
Mupande was separately slapped with a five-year sentence for stealing a Honda Fit vehicle, which they used to commit the crimes. One year was suspended on condition that he does not commit a similar crime in the next five years. He will therefore serve an effective 15 years in prison.
In their mitigation, Mupande and Chirova pleaded for leniency saying they committed the crimes due to societal pressures from their “well-off” peers as well as the lifestyles of social media influencers.
“I committed the crimes because of peer pressure. I was envious of the lives of my peers and the lives of social media influencers. I wanted to be like them, I wanted to mimic their lives, the food they ate, their dressing and the drinks they enjoyed,” said Mupande.
Chirova told the court that he was pressured by Mupande to engage in the crimes.
“It was not my intention to commit these crimes. It was Mupande who pressured me into committing these crimes. He was persistent in getting me to be part of his plan,” he said.
In passing the sentence, Mr Singano said the court was persuaded to be lenient considering the age of the two students.
“The law is considerate of their age, maturity, inexperience and peer pressure. They are youthful offenders and are students at Bulawayo Polytechnic. However, this does not mean they should not be punished,” he said.
Mr Singano said the pair was daring in executing their movie-style robberies and the such crimes deserve custodial sentence.
“The court was lenient because they did not waste time and admitted to their crimes,” he said.
Mr Singano noted that the two students prejudiced the complainants financially while also causing harm to customer confidence.
Ms Siphiwe Mhlanga appeared for the State. Herald