FAMILIES of six suspects accused of stealing clothes worth over US$4 500 from their employer are up in arms with the businesswoman for allegedly orchestrating the arrest of their relatives for demanding salaries after months of going unpaid.
The hexad has been languishing in Khami Prison and wasdenied bail by the Bulawayo magistrate’s court last week for allegedly nicking clothes from a shop in the city centre owned by businesswoman Nyengeterai Denga.
The six are Pedzisai Manungo, Farai Machimbidzofa, Bangani Sibanda, Sharon Ngirazi, Priviledge Tatenda Mangena and Sibusisiwe Manatsa.
Five of them were employed as sales assistants by Chic Styles Boutique while Manatsa was a security guard at the clothing shop.
They allegedly took turns to load clothes from the shop’s storeroom and stashed them in bags, making off with merchandise worth thousands of United States dollars.
The families of the accused, however, insist that the charges were trumped up to keep the former employees from demanding their long over-due salaries.
“My brother told me that he had not been paid for several months and whenever they asked for their salaries, the shop owner would make endless excuses.
“I think they had not been paid for over four months and one morning early this month they were arrested for stealing clothes worth US$4 500. This is a shop that sells women’s dresses, skirts and blouses, some which are as cheap as US$3. It would surely take truck loads full of clothes to steal stuff worth US$4 500 from that shop and leave the shop owner with absolutely nothing in the shop. We want answers, our relatives can’t just be arrested because the shop owner doesn’t want to pay them their salaries,” fumed one of the relatives David Manungo.
The families pooled resources and hired lawyer Arkisayi James Dhliwayo of Hara Law Firm to represent the six.
The families demanded to be shown CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) footage implicating their relatives so that they could at least try and understand how they managed to steal the merchandise without being detected.
Denga allegedly refused, saying the evidence was now with the police.
“We managed to track down the owner of the security company that was hired to safeguard the premises and he told us the few cameras that were installed at the shop have never been turned on. They (cameras) were just to scare off customers from stealing in the shop.
“It hurts that our relatives are languishing in remand prison. We can only pray that the court will see through the shop owner’s lies and acquit them,” said Martha Mbuyazi, another relative of one of the accused.
B-Metro spoke to the security company owner Gibbs Makhulu Mabheka who said he was also shocked that his employee had been arrested as the shop owner never informed him that she was opening a case of theft against the six.
“I own a company called Gemston Security, which was hired by Mrs Denga for close to a year. The right thing, at least according to our client and service provider agreement, would have been for Mrs Denga to inform me that merchandise in her shop was missing since one of my security guards was stationed there. She (Denga) didn’t do that and I only learnt through my company supervisor that one of our security guards had been arrested for theft.
“I talked to her a few months about keeping an inventory book so that we know what comes and goes out of the shop but she brushed me off so now I wonder how clothes worth that much were stolen right under her nose.
“I’m ready to go and testify when the case goes for trial,” said Mabheka, a former police prosecutor.
Denga declined to entertain questions from this publication when called for a comment. B Metro