A police officer has been accused of assaulting and killing an armed robbery suspect and conniving with other police officers to conceal the truth.â€¨Gaborone based private attorney, Martin Dingake suspects that Constable Mudongo Mudongo of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), formerly based at Molepolole Police Station has everything to do with the disappearance of the Molepolole man, Olefile Momphitlhi who went missing while on Police custody in 2011 under suspicious circumstances.
Dingake further blamed the Police for the mysterious disappearance of vital Police records that could have connected the Police to the brutality.
“Mr Mudongo, I put it to you that you assaulted Mr Olefile Momphitlhi and as a result of the assault you inflicted on him, he died whilst in your hands…I further put to you Mr Mudongo that you then disposed off his body…I put it to you Mr Mudongo that after disposing the body you went on a grand scheme from then up to today to conceal the truth and you refuse to take responsibility for the consequence of your actions,” Dingake challenged Mudongo before the Lobatse High court on Wednesday this week.
When Mudongo denied the accusation Dingake further accused him of peddling lies with intention to deceive the court and defeating the ends of justice.
“You know deep down what you did to Olefile Momphitlhi and his body and that you will do everything at your disposal to crash anything done by anyone seeking to expose the truth. And you lie, repeatedly and that is why you, Kristen and Phuku fail to state the facts of what transpired that night. Each one of you has a different story. You are not telling the truth,” Dingake asserted.
Kristen and Phuku are Police officers who were with Mudongo when Momphitlhi went missing, who have all denied ever laying a hand on him. However a suspect who was in the same police holding cell with Momphitlhi on the night of 7 August, 2011 told the court that he heard Momphitlhi’s agonising screams that night and that he knew that the Police were torturing him as they had threatened to do so if he refused to tell the truth about the getaway car which was used during the armed robbery.
The same cellmate, Mothusi Popego was a suspect in the same robbery case that Momphitlhi was arrested for and he told the court that he was also brutally assaulted by the same officers before Momphitlhi’s arrest.
Momphitlhi was the last of the three suspects in the armed robbery case to be arrested. He handed himself to the Police after hearing that they were looking for him. His car was used in the robbery a few days earlier at Taj filling station in Molepolole where about P300 000 was stolen.
Mudongo admitted before the court that he was excited upon arresting the last witness. Dingake then suggested that in the excitement, the officer assaulted the suspect when he could not give him the information he wanted.
Contradicting statements by Police Officers
All the Police witnesses who appeared before court maintained that Momphitlhi escaped at Old Naledi where he had led the police as he said the car was there. He had allegedly said the car was in his uncle’s possession.
However the three police officers who were with him then, differ on critical details of the alleged escape. In fact Mudongo dismissed some of the evidence brought forward by the Police as untrue. He also admitted that he had made errors in his own submissions before the court which Dingake found to be deliberate and well planned errors whose sole intention was to frustrate and destroy the evidence.
Dingake found several actions of the police in dealing with Momphitlhi quite suspicious. Firstly when the officers “took” Momphitlhi to Old Naledi they did not record the action in the occurrence book as is required by police procedure. Mudongo said they had forgotten to make the record. Secondly Mudongo said he had given Momphitlhi all his belongings which were taken from him at detention time. The property according to Mudongo included his mobile phone, cap and shoes.
Even the Judge found it strange that a suspect in an armed robbery could be given a mobile phone while in police custody but Mudongo said they had to give it to him so that if need arose, he could call the Uncle whom he said was in possession of the car.
Thirdly, the suspect was not hand cuffed when he left the police station and Mudongo said they found no need to bind his movement as they trusted him because he had handed himself to the police.
Also, the three officers submitted contradicting statements in regards to what exactly transpired at Old Naledi just before Momphitlhi’s escape. For instance, Kristen said they parked the car they were using some distance from the yard, but Mudongo said he was the one driving and he parked the car just by the gate.
Mudongo told the court that when Momphitlhi ran off, his partner Phuku shouted the words “O siile” meaning he had escaped. According to Dingake, the words had striking similarities to the words used in a text message sent to Momphitlhi’s younger brother, “Ke siile mo Mapodising….O bolelle Mme.”
A day after Momphitlhi’s disappearance his younger brother received the text message from a mobile phone which was later found to have been an exhibit in a different matter before the police.
Lastly Dingake found it strange that police records such as the cell register and prisoner’s property register disappeared from the police soon after the internal investigation on the missing man begun.
“I put to you that you and the officers you were with colluded to make sure that exhibits go missing. I further put it to you Mr Mudongo that you have something to do with the missing of the exhibits, the cell register and prisoner’s property register…I put it to you that the purported text and what you say Mr Phuku shouted suggests that it was part of the grand scheme to shift what the police had done,” Dingake further levelled the accusation.
Dingake represented Momphitlhi’s family in this matter. The trial continues next Month.
Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.
These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.
The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”
The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.
“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”
Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.
The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.
Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.
One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.
But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.
One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.
Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.
In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.
Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.
Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.
United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.
According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.
“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.
A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.
Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.
In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”
While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.
Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility. Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.
For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies. European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.
It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.
The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.
“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”
“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.” The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”