The former Assistant Commissioner of the Police, Milton Mapange
The family of Ofentse Momphitlhi, an armed robbery suspect who allegedly went missing when in police custody is not content with the police evidence before court and wants to open a fresh case so that they can seek expert evidence to boost their case against the State.
The family, which strongly believes their son was killed by the police, want expert opinion so that they can expose police involvement in the alleged “manslaughter and possible concealing of the body.”
“We are thinking of opening a fresh case because we want to call in more witnesses. The family has already given me the instruction,” revealed the family legal representative, Martin Dingake.
The decision to request Justice Rainer Busang to allow for new evidence was taken after the state closed its case on Thursday this week without explaining some key questions, including details of how Momphitlhi’s mobile number was used.
The former Assistant Commissioner of the Police, Milton Mapange who was the last witness insisted that Momphitlhi escaped from lawful custody but denied ever discovering that his mobile phone became active the very same day he escaped.
Evidence which Mapange compiled from the cellular phone network companies detailed the mobile number’s activity including calls which the family insists were made by some of the Molepolole Police officers.
Momphitlhi is said to have escaped on the 8th August, 2011 in Old Naledi location in Gaborone, whilst in the company of three Molepolole Police officers. The three officers who had already appeared before court had stated that they had taken him to his uncle’s place in Old Naledi where he claimed he had kept the car which was used in an armed robbery. The officers contended that they did not handcuff him and gave him his mobile phone so that he could call his uncle if need arose.
However this week in court, the Investigating officer, Mapange contradicted their statements and said the officers had told him the car which they were looking for was the one Momphitlhi bought with the proceeds of the armed robbery.
He further denied that the officers never made any formal statements regarding the escape of the suspect prior to the police internal investigations. Notwithstanding this, one of the officers, Mudongo Mudongo told the court that they had made the statement and that he was hearing it for the first time in court that the statement was missing or never made.
“I told you it was a lie. I investigated and found that the statement was never made and I told him because I wanted the statements, so he knew,” Mapange told the court.
However Mapange insisted that he believed that Momphitlhi had indeed escaped from lawful custody and charged the three officers with negligence and aiding a prisoner to escape.
When he was asked whether he ever followed the calls that were made on Momphitlhi’s mobile phone, Mapange said he never did. The phone was active from the day of escape and even when Mapange received the activity data on November 30th, 2011, the phone was still active.
Mapange further stated that he never investigated the phone communications of the three officers even though some of the evidence mysteriously went missing during the course of his investigations.
During the investigation period, the cell record, prisoner’s property record and a mobile phone which Momphitlhi supposedly used to send a text message to his brother informing him of his escape, went missing. The cellphone used was an exhibit in a different matter and at the time it was used, it was supposedly in police custody. Meanwhile when Momphitlhi escaped he is said to have been carrying his own mobile phone which was handed to him by the police.
Mapange also explained that during the time of internal investigations, the three officers were not suspended because he did not believe they could destroy evidence. He further explained that even though some of the evidence went missing a suspected break in of theft case was never opened.
“I asked the Station Commander for the missing items and he told me he searched for them and he had not found them,” Mapange told the court.
The case before Justice Busang of Lobatse High Court was brought by Momphitlhi family of Molepolole who want the police to reveal the whereabouts of their son, who has been missing since police detention in August 2011.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.