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Mystery of missing man who vanished in police custody

The Botswana Police Service boss, Keabetswe Makgophe and several police officers were this week subpoenaed before the Lobatse High court to answer for the whereabouts of a Molepolole man who went missing from police custody in August 2011 under mysterious circumstances.

The Botswana Police Service boss, Keabetswe Makgophe and several police officers were this week subpoenaed before the Lobatse High court to answer for the whereabouts of a Molepolole man who went missing from police custody in August 2011 under mysterious circumstances.


The family of the “missing man”, Olefile Momphitlhi suspects that he was killed by the police on the night of his arrest and was in court the whole of this week demanding that the police give them their son.


“The last time Olefile was with his brother was when he entered the Molepolole Police station in September, 2011 and all we want from the Police is to give us back our son. Only the Police know where he is,” the family representative, Mpho Laolang told the court.


An undisputed fact before Justice Railer Busang of the Lobatse High court is that Olefile was detained at Molepolole Police station on the fateful day but the main contention is about his alleged escape from legal custody. The Police maintained that Olefile escaped from legal custody and his family maintains that his disappearance reeks of foul play.


“There was a point when we suspected that our missing son might have been buried in a newly dug grave at Masu-a-ditshwene cemetery and we asked the police to investigate the grave. The mysterious grave emerged a few days after we were told our son escaped from police custody. A few days after we reported the matter to the police we discovered that the grave has sunken, raising suspicion that whatever that was put there earlier had been exhumed,” Laolang speculated and was overruled by the court over the matter.


Olefile is a suspect in an armed robbery case that took place at Taj filling in Molepolole where about P100 000 cash was stolen. Olefile is alleged to have transported the robbers in his car. After the police came looking for him at his mother’s house, he went to the police station with his brother and a cousin and he was detained as he was to appear for mention at the Molepolole Magistrate court with other suspects the following morning.


The following morning when the brother went to check on him at the Police station he was told that he had escaped the previous night from Police custody. The police alleges that Olefile escaped somewhere in old Naledi where he had led three Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers to the car that was allegedly used during the robbery. The Police had admitted negligence before the High court over this matter.


“That the suspect is still at large since 07/08/11 and was reported missing by his parents, further that the suspects was last seen with the defaulters (Kristen, Modongo and Phuku) the inference that can be drawn is that the BPS knows his whereabouts,” the police disciplinary committee wrote in one of the BPS internal investigations documents which the court forced the Police Commissioner to submit this week.

Cause for suspicion

Although Makgophe and his officers maintains that Olefile escaped from lawful custody the family is not convinced and want the Police to explain the text message that was sent to Olefile’s brother soon after the alleged escape.

The text message written, (translated) “I have escaped to South Africa. I’ll return next year. Tell Mum,” later emerged that it was sent through a mobile phone which was an exhibit in a different matter which was under police investigations.

The owner of the phone admitted before the court that his mobile phone together with the simcard was in custody of the Molepolole Police. However it could not be produced as evidence because it has since disappeared together with vital police records, including cell register and occurrence book that covered the period when Olefile was detained.


Olefile’s co-accused in the robbery case, Mothusi Popego told the court that when the police officers removed Olefile from the cell that night, they threatened that they will kill him unless he tells them where the vehicle and some of the money they got from the robbery were kept.


According to Popego, the police officers had beaten and tortured Olefile before locking him up and his screams could be heard from the detaining cells where other co-accused were kept.


“When they removed him from the cell that night he was chained and I saw them through a tiny window on the cell door that they pushed him into a car and drove off,” Popego bore witness before court.


The Police have however denied that they had chained him when they left Molepolole police station that night.


“On the date mentioned in the charge sheet, the investigating team decided to interrogate the said Olefile and took him out of the cells at about 2300 hours at Molepolole Police station. During the interview, the said Olefile indicated to the investigation team that an exhibit pertaining to the robbery case he was interrogated for was at Old Naledi, Gaborone.

The investigating team then gave the suspect all the properties which included shoes, hat and belt but did not handcuff him and drove to Old Naledi. At Old Naledi the suspect took the investigating team to a certain yard which he alleged to be his uncles and it was at the place where the suspect disappeared,” the police maintained before court.


However the fact that the investigating team failed to immediately report the incident to the police raised great suspicion that they could have been hiding something. In fact the Old Naledi Police has distanced itself from the matter and told the court that to date no formal report on the incident was ever reported at their station.


Evidence that was forced from the Police Commissioner through a court order suggests that nobody in old Naledi ever saw the investigating team in company of Olefile. The internal investigations suggested that there was no reasonable justification why the suspect was transported at night and not handcuffed. According to evidence submitted before court, the law does not provide for night search.


The former Station Commander of Molepolole Police station, Andrew Bosilong has also stated in an interview outside court that his officers never reported the incident to him. Bosilong said he only learnt about the missing man when his family logged a complaint on the matter.


This was so because after removing Olefile from the cell, the officers did not record themselves in the occurrence book as is required by police procedure.

The Investigating team

The investigating team which included, Inspector Thatayaone Kristen, Constables Modongo Modongo and Bonani Phuku have since appeared before the police disciplinary hearing in 2012 and were found guilty of “gross negligence and permitting a prisoner to escape”.


Phuku and Modongo were each fined P200 and dismissed from service in November 2012. However on appeal before the Police Council that included, Reverend Mpho Moruakgomo, Adolph Hirschfeld, Sadique Kebonang, Hermentina Mogami amongst others, their sentences were reversed and they were reinstated and transferred to other Police stations outside the Kweneng region.


However Inspector Thatayaone Kristen was demoted from the rank of Sergeant and his salary reduced to a lower notch and was also transferred to another Police station.


Meanwhile the Police still claims that there are still in pursuit of Olefile. In May 2012 the Botswana police Services (BPS) inquired from INTERPOL, South Africa as to whether Olefile had somehow crossed to the neighbouring country, but the response was that, “subject (Olefile) has been checked in the movement control system and the last movement was from South Africa into Botswana via Schilpadhek (Tlokweng border) by foot on 17 June 2011 at 1750 hours.”

According to Interpol, Olefile was in Botswana.

In the enquiry, the police had described Olefile as a dangerous man and the message they gave to Interpol was that his “anonymity or privacy is not protected by the applicable national laws,” and that if traced the South Africans must “take all appropriate measures” in accordance with their national laws when dealing with him.

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Greef reports Madigele to Tsogwane

20th June 2022

Gaborone Bonnignton South Member of Parliament (MP) Christian Greef has submitted a letter of complaint to party chairman Slumber Tosogwane to take stern action against former minister Dr Alfred Madigele for causing chaos in the constituency.

There has been simmering tension between the two in Gaborone Bonnignton South, where former minister Dr. Madigele is said to be busy working the ground with the intention of contesting the constituency in 2024.  Greef is said to have fallen out of favour with the party top hierarchy due to his association with the beleaguered party secretary general Mpho Balopi, something which he says is “unfounded”.  Greef told this publication that “there are some with mischievous attempts here, but I will sort them out.”

Insiders, however, reveal that it is Madigele who has been causing unrest in the constituency as he plots his comeback to parliament in 2024. This is notwithstanding the fact that Madigele has also been promised the position of secretary general, should the party faithful ratify a proposal by the party politburo to reconfigure the position.

However, Madigele does not want to count on the SG position, hence the decision to to contest the Gaborone Bonnington South constituency. There are reports that there is a spirited campaign by some party members to reject a mulled plan to have the SG being a full-time employee of the party.  This has irked Greef and has since approached the party structures for redress. “We are writing this letter to issue a complaint regarding misconduct by certain members of the BDP in our constituency.

There are several incidents where these individuals have been causing uncalled-for disruptions during party activities in Gaborone Bonnington South,” a letter penned by Greef, addressed to the regional chairperson, reads. He further added, “The group of people who are causing all these unnecessary tension in our constituency is identified and allegedly known by Madigele’s teams who is said to be campaigning for 2023 primary elections.

As the branch we witnessed the same team with similar misconduct during Bophirima Ward by election which we believe caused the party to lose the ward and continue to bring the image of the party in disrepute.” Lately, Madigele has relocated to the same constituency and that has created anxiety to Greef who is a first-time MP. Greef is concerned about how his rival was accepted in his constituency without his knowledge. If he had his wish, he would kick out Madigele from the constituency.

Greef, in another letter copied to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and Chairman Slumber Tsogwane, says Madigele has brought the branch into disarray by campaigning for a parliamentary seat contrary to the party’s regulations for conduct of primary elections. “I therefore humbly appeal to you to call Dr Madigele, who is not a member of our branch, to order,” he said.  Party officials in the region are aware of the matter; some say the MP’s complaint is baseless. However, the MP, according to sources, will fight to the bitter end to ensure that his arch rival is purged out.

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Katlholo’s lawyers slap DCEC with bill in its row with DIS

20th June 2022
Tymon Katlholo

Monthe and Marumo Attorneys who are representing suspended Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo in a legal dispute pitting him against the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have said that they would submit a legal bill to the agency.

This was after DCEC’s acting Director General, Tshepo Pilane had written a letter to the law firm demanding that some files and documents belonging to the agency be returned.  “We refer to your letter dated 3rd June 2022 wherein you advised of termination of our mandate. In view thereof we have to file a notice of withdrawal as attorneys of record for and on behalf of the Organisation (DCEC),” Monthe Marumo Attorneys said in their letter.

The lawyers also indicated that, “the firm is in the process of finalizing your invoice and upon settlement of same, we will duly release the contents of the file, in so far as it relate to DCEC.”  Pilane had informed the law firm that, “Following the Directorate’s termination of any and/or mandate between the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and your law firm and/or attorney of an Associate law firm of Monthe Marumo and Company on the 3rd June 2022.”

He added that, “I do hereby request that all DCEC documents in custody be returned to the DCEC on or before 12hours today the 6th June 2022. You are also informed that none of this information shall be used by your office under any circumstances.”  Meanwhile Katlholo has told the High Court that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security was on the rampage as it continues to act with impunity.

He revealed this in an urgent application in which he seeks among others that Pilane, Deputy Director General of DCEC Priscilla Israel and the agency’s senior legal advisor Edwin Batsalwelang to be committed to jail for contempt of a court. The Court order had directed that a deputy sheriff should collect files and dockets from the DCEC office and place them into the custody of the Court.  “Consequent to the order of his Lordship, the DISS has continued on its rampage and has arrested two officers of the DCEC and detained them in a Hitler style arrangement,” said Katlholo.

He added that, quite clearly the “DISS with the assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents seeks to conceal all the evidence by obstructing Judicial process.”  He said his latest current application has been brought at the earliest opportunity following defiance and acts of obstruction at the instance of the respondents. Katlholo saidthe conduct of the Pilane, Israel, Batsalelwang and DIS are an aggression on the rule of law, the Constitution of Botswana and the Judiciary in general.

“The DISS clearly has every intention of continuing to defy my rights and with the due assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents (Pilane, Israel and Batsalelwang). To refuse an interdict, thereby allowing the perpetration of an ongoing wrong is an anathema to the principle of legality,” said Katlholo. He said, “The DISS cannot be allowed to continue acting in contravention of the law, and to fragrantly invade an act of Parliament.”

He reiterated that the files or documents or dockets remain vulnerable and there is need that they be removed from the office and placed in the custody of the Registrar. There can never be a safe place than Court, said Katlholo.  “Should the matter not be heard as urgent, the likelihood of the files concerned and the information therein dissipating or being interfered with is high and once the evidence of the concerned files has been compromised or contaminated there is no other relief in law that fix such, there is therefore no alternative remedy,” he said.

Katlholo added that, “Most importantly, any unwarranted access to the files may compromise the integrity of ongoing investigations and expose informants and whistleblowers. Once they have been compromised, no court action may restore such.”  He said it was necessary and extremely urgent that the Court steps in to protect the rule of law against the respondents, more particularly the DIS and its agents.

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US monitoring Thuso Tiego arrests

20th June 2022
Thuso Tiego

The United States through its State Department’s annual report on global religious freedoms is keeping tabs on Botswana’s decision to arrest of controversial pastor Thuso Tiego by the police.

The report was released a week ago.  Tiego was re-arrested this week by the police after he allegedly attempted to spearhead a campaign aimed at shutting down some shops that are run by foreigners. The US’ State Department report says Police arrested a pastor from the Bethel Transfiguration Church September 7 when he tried to deliver a petition to President Mokgweetsi Masisi demanding his resignation over what the pastor said was mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The pastor, Thuso Tiego, also criticized the government for restricting religious gatherings at a time when he said that individuals turned to churches for counselling and support during the pandemic,” the report says.  It says Tiego was held overnight at a police station and released without charge.  The report cites media reports saying that several of his supporters were beaten by police when they gathered outside the station demanding Tiego’s release.

“The national police service did not announce any disciplinary action against the officers involved,” the report says adding that, “The constitution provides for freedom of religion, with certain exceptions, and protection against governmental discrimination based on creed.”
On other related issues, the report said the government continued to pursue court cases involving unregistered churches (sometimes called “fire churches”) coming into the country to “take advantage of” local citizens by demanding tithes and donations for routine services or special prayers.

“The government required pastors of some of those churches to apply for visas – even those from countries whose nationals were normally allowed visa-free entry.  The government said in June 2019 that it was reviewing the visa policy for these foreign pastors, but by year’s end had not released the results of this review or announced any changes,” the report says.   According to the report, former members of one of the most prominent unregistered churches forced to close in 2019, the Enlightened Christian Gathering, subsequently formed their own smaller, independent churches with local leadership that was ultimately registered by the government.

The report says, under the COVID-19 state of emergency that ended in September, the government limited attendance at religious services to no more than 50 persons at one time and limited services to twice a week.  The government also banned all religious gatherings during “extreme social distancing” periods.  Although the limits on religious gatherings lasted 18 months and prevented some individuals from fully practicing their faith, most religious groups did not say their freedom of religion was being restricted and stated that the extraordinary measures were necessary for public health

The report says the US Embassy officials engaged with Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and other religious representatives to discuss religious freedom, interreligious relations, and community engagement. “Topics included government tolerance of minority religious groups, the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on religious expression, and interfaith cooperation to address community challenges,” the report says.

The report says under its broader protections of freedom of conscience, the constitution provides for freedom of thought and religion, the right to change religion or belief, and the right to manifest and propagate religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance.
It says the constitution’s provision of rights also prohibits discrimination based on creed.

The constitution permits the government to restrict these rights in the interest of protecting the rights of other persons, national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health when the restrictions are deemed “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.”   “The state of emergency imposed from March 2020 to September 2021 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which capped the size of regular religious gatherings and meetings, was the first time the government ever exercised this provision,” the report says.

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