A Bulawayo Polytechnic engineering student who went on a robbery spree in the city has been slapped with an effective additional 20 years in prison after admitting to five more counts of armed robbery, to add to the effective 15 years he is already serving for robbery and attempted robbery.
Learn Mupande (21) received an additional 30-year sentence on Thursday for the extra five counts of armed robbery he admitted committing but 10 years of that new sentence were suspended on condition he behaves properly after he is finally released from prison.
The series of counts include robbing Mukuru of R13 390, Chicken Inn drive through where he stole two iPhone 7s and US$998.66, Athens supermarket in Cowdray Park where he stole a cellphone, handcuffs and baton. Mupande also robbed a registered money agency Tottengram Investments and made off with US$1 850.
Mupande initially appeared in court on Tuesday with his accomplice Bezel Chirova (21) who is also an engineering student at Bulawayo Poly.
Mupande and Chirova told a court that flashy lifestyles displayed on social media by celebrities influenced them to commit the crimes between March and September this year.
Mupande and Chirova 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.
Mupande was separately slapped with a five-year sentence for stealing a Honda Fit, which they used to commit the crimes. One year was suspended on condition that he does not commit a similar crime when out of prison. 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, and 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 such crimes deserve custodial sentences.
“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*_