Ximex Mall: Operation restore order is great but …

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Ximex Mall in Harare. Image credit: Pamushana.com

This week the national police force, ZRP, in an operation code named Operation Restore Order swooped in on some well known illegal technology trading hot spots in Harare. The posse swamped Ximex Mall ( which is the de facto headquarters), Gulf Complex, Cameroon Street ( kuFlyover), Magaba in Mbare and Albercone Avenue. Their ambitious mission is to put an end to the illegal trade in stolen technology wares and I hate to say it but they( the police) are most likely going to fail.

We all know ( have all known for years actually) : if you want to buy a cheap phone or tablet for a great price you only have to pay Ximex Mall a visit. We all know, as we have for years now, that a good number of the phones are probably stolen property. It seems though the police did not know. According to a report in the local press, the Police spokesperson for Harare, Inspector Tadius Chibanda is quoted as saying, the dealers had invaded the mall which has been closed for refurbishment and renovation- it seems to him the closure of Ximex for renovations is the conditio sine qua non without which these dealers would not exist.

Legend has it that these fellas at Ximex are merely part of a well established network. According to lore even popular musicians are part of this network. These musicians, it is said, have pick pockets working for them during their shows, which they use as bait to lure people, whilst their pick pockets relieve people of their gadgets: cellphones, tablets and other technology paraphernalia. These pick pockets then deliver the goods to the dealers at Ximex and everyone in the network including the musicians get their cut. I am sure this is just an urban legend but at least the story tellers know there is more to it than merely a bunch of dealers selling their stolen wares which is a lot more than the police know.

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Noble as it is there are a lot of reasons why the police are likely to fail in their quest. Not the least of which is that their operation does not address one of the root problems:  there exist a market for cheap technology stolen or not. There a lot of people out there who want an iPhone or Galaxy Tab who cannot afford to pay a thousand dollars for it. The dealers will find  and have already found other trading spots where they can carry on their business. It is like killing the Hydra you cut off one head and two more will grow in its stead.

The other problem is that there is a single visible weakness point in the supply chain of stolen gadgets: during the sale. In my opinion the police need help from legislators (or POTRAZ) and network operators.  In addition to registering your line people should be given the opportunity to register their phones as well. When a subscriber’s phone is reported as stolen it should be entered in a shared database of Blacklisted and Blocked phones by all the mobile operators so as to render it unusable. Sure smart people will find a way around it but this will no doubt result in a significant fall in the trade of stolen smartphones and tablets at least.

No doubt in the coming weeks the illicit dealers will be able to return to Ximex as the police grow weary of their stunt. After all one cannot be expected to put out a raging forest fire by stomping at it. The status quo is unsustainable and we all know it: the best we can hope for is a Kombie like scenario were the police get their bribes and let the dealers go. Perhaps we will see a couple dealers appearing in court but it is very difficult to see how the police will get a conviction in this case. At most they can only prove that the dealers are operating businesses without licences. It would not be easy to trace the legitimate owners of the cellphones without the cellphone database and without proof of theft the dealers will in all likelihood walk-after a slap of the wrist. The burden of proof is on the police to prove that a device was stolen- the dealers who should be presumed innocent do not have to prove anything.

I think the police need technology to fight technology crimes but considering the ZRP does not even have a website(that I know of) I think we are expecting too much here. In my opinion Operation Restore order is great but “moto wemapepa.” It is like one of those drug operations in Mexico: publicity stunts that help no one but result in more premium going to the drug dealers before it dies in some police report wherein it is immortalized before being carted into some cabinet. Just politicking here folks move along.

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11 Comments

  1. Batman says:

    You sound as if you condone the sale of stolen property

    1. Tindo says:

      TechZim editors need to write articles without emotions attached… Have professional writing

      1. Garikai says:

        Dont worry @disqus_fzF28LrUXP:disqus I am as cool as a cucumber. I am not going to start a riot or anything this just a purely an academic endeavour. I wonder though, what emotion motivated you to post the comment? For I believe all action is spurred by emotion and words.

    2. Garikai says:

      And here I thought I was asking the police and government to do more!!!

  2. bitchsbrew says:

    lol @ “Legend has it…”

  3. Me says:

    I’d like to see a method of meaningful recovery of gadgets. Trying to target these guys trying to make a living legit or otherwise is futile in the long term. Honestly network operators dont take a proactive approach in helping recover “lost” gadgets or even if you do attempt to seek their assistance a huge barrier presents itself in the recovery process. There needs to be intervention from a third party like security companies fawcett securico safegaurd etc to keep a list of blacklisted gadgets as they have personnel who can assist in catching people using stolen property for a fee perhaps without the lengthy process of doing it by yourself

  4. Harlin says:

    No Seriously – these silly networks should stop offering me solar power, red deals and form a phone black list –

  5. One Guy Who Lost All Hope In R says:

    I agree that the regulatory authority should set a mandate where subscribers register their gadgets with their service provider where the database is accessible by all law enforcement agencies & searching for a stolen phone or tablet can be done across all networks, disabling blacklisted phones would only just make it tougher for them to be found via network search, majority of these phones have gps & can be pin pointed to their exact location this is just the opportunity the regulatory authorities need to set up a system like this.

    Whoever at TechZim has the weight to propose the idea to POTRAZ please do so urgently, Christmas is around the corner, meaning new prey for these thieves.

    Thank You

    One Guy Who Lost All Hope In Recovering His Phone Back

  6. fiend says:

    Too negative man. Too negative. You sound very angry. The police mean well.

    1. Garikai says:

      I know they mean well it’s just I feel they can do more if they got help from the other parties like Econet and other network operators for example.

    2. Mutapa says:

      A tech solution to a tech problem. that,s what i would say. Just how many of these policemen are IT literate?

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