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Knife, gun wielding criminals target kombis

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Local public transport drivers and passengers are in trouble – they are being attacked daily by thieves in and outside the city of Gaborone, day and night – but especially at night. The situation has worsened to a point where the majority of kombi drivers have resorted to knocking off as early as 6pm to avoid being robbed. This has put the concerned public transport business owners out of business while their customers are often left stranded with nothing to transport them home after work, especially those knocking off after 6pm at Airport Junction Mall needing to travel south up to Game City Mall.

Information gathered from different police stations around Gaborone suggests that areas of Mogoditshane, Broadhurst, Extension 27, Block 7, White City and Old Naledi are hot spots for this new kind of crime where criminals have now resorted to targeting late night passengers in their entirety in a kombi. Random patrons who work till late at Airport Junction Mall have expressed frustration and fear for their lives as they are now at the mercy of cab drivers, some of whom are criminals themselves. “I work at a shop within Airport Junction but live in Block 9. I have been using Block 8 Route 4 kombis but lately they no longer leave the mall after 6pm. We are forced to pick random sedans that wait on the parking lot to take us home.

The problem is, instead of the P3.50 I would pay in the kombi to go home, I have to now part with P30.00 cab fee. “Even worse, some of these cab drivers are themselves crooks who on some occasions have driven a passenger in the bush to either rob or rape them. We just no longer know what to do,” Moseki Mmoniemang tells The Midweek Sun. She talks in pain of a colleague who worked at Spar Supermarket and was attacked and killed by criminals after work because she had to walk home with no kombis when she knocked off at night.

It’s a Catch-22 situation for those who knock off late – take an available kombi and run the risk of being attacked and robbed on the way, or take a cab that will cost an arm and a leg, and that is if one can also trust the driver to be legitimate. The Midweek Sun last week engaged separately with Block 8 Route 4 mini bus drivers at the Game City bus terminal. Their stories tell of a situation beyond redemption, seeing that they have all decided against driving once darkness has set in. Theirs is a route infamous for smash and grab incidents, hijackings and an array of armed robbery incidents.  

Their route begins from Game City then heads to Block 9 and passes through Block 5 up to the Grand Palm traffic lights intersection. The route will then lead to GIPS, Pula Spar, Ledumadumane and Block 7; then through Block 8, Block 10 and ends at Airport Junction Mall. It is when they travel back from Airport Junction to Game City at night that they see it all. Crime syndicates have now mastered the art of taking people’s possessions inside the kombis without a sweat. One criminal gets into the kombi at Airport Junction with other passengers; along the way, at a taxi stop around Block 7 or Pula Spar, he alerts the driver that he has reached his destination. When the driver stops, a gang will emerge from nowhere and at knife or gunpoint instruct the driver to just wait while they take passengers’ possessions from money to cellphones.

The drivers’ hearts are bleeding – they no longer feel safe, they fear for their lives and those of their passengers. They mention a taxi stop now commonly known as ‘The Slaughter House,’ – an area around Block 7 adjacent to some bushes of which the thieves take advantage.  One elderly driver on the route, Shimane Matebele of Moshupa is still reeling from the shock of nearly losing his life on the route. “I was stabbed and left with a deep cut on my right shoulder a month back. Two of my passengers suffered minor hand cuts when they tried to resist the advances of the thugs,”  Matebele shared his experience. He said the thieves had been sitting in his mini bus pretending to be normal customers, only for them to take out sharp knives and demand every valuable item from him and his customers. Failure to oblige to their commands resulted in a brutal assault; fortunately he managed to speed off even though they had taken all his money and also robbed all passengers.

Michael Malepa also shared that about 4 to 5 of their kombis have recently been attacked and the number is increasing weekly. Nevertheless, he raised concern that they are lacking protection from the local police, saying they are never there for the rescue. Malepa pleaded with the police to conduct patrols around the area especially in the evenings, saying the police are only found around the area in the mornings, which is not enough.Meanwhile, Isaac Lepang, also an Executive Committee Member of Broadhurst Route1 explained that they also go through hell, “I once hit another car while trying to run away from these gangsters,” said Lepang.

He explained that a terrified woman once begged him for his rescue as she was being chased by a middle-aged man holding a knife. The woman hopped into his kombi and was forced to react fast. He tried to flee but hit an oncoming car instead. Goemeone Kunoto also from Broadhurst said he has lost count of how many times he has seen men and women, the young and the old shed tears over their bags and expensive cell-phones. “It is very common here and we have now run out of ideas of how best to deal with the situation, some of them stand by the road and stop us just like any normal passenger. They get in, greet everybody and take whatever they have their eyes set on,” Kunoto lamented.

Kunoto also added that the mobsters can cause an unnecessary commotion in order to divert the attention of the passengers, while people are still processing the happenings, they rob them when totally off-guard. Meanwhile, Batswana are currently growing restless as criminals have seemingly grown horns and are also more arrogant. They are appealing to the authorities to up their game and make efforts to deal with such criminals. 

Sir Seretse Khama Airport police station commander Superintendent Banneetse Keatile this week confirmed the incidences in what is their policing area, adding that while they have made efforts to patrol the area, they are also awaiting city authorities to clear up the bushes around Block 7, where the said criminals hide. Superintendent Mothusi Phadi of Borakanelo police station also confirmed that they have similar cases in his station.

He explained that the crime trend is very common in Old Naledi, along the old Lobatse road intersection and in front of Delta which are areas in his jurisdiction. However, reports have been made that it is also rampant in Extension 27.He urged the community to always be on high alert when using public transport and report any suspicious behaviour they notice. The police authorities have also advised employers and employees that knock off late from their organisations to organize safe and trusted transport that could deliver them closer to their homes while efforts are being made to curb the rampant crime where criminals target them in kombis and cabs.

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BATTLE FOR MMADIKOLO

The MidweekSun Admin

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University of Botswana students are bracing themselves for the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections. Contenders are fighting tooth and nail to appease the electorate. Three camps are in contention to fill the 13 council positions.

Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) Moono-wa-Baithuti has the onerous task of defending all the 13 seats which they hauled at the last elections of 2018. “As Moono wa Baithuti, we have lots of achievements. We are on the verge of getting the student bar open, so we need to go back and fix what we started,” said UDC’s Tumelo Legase who is vying for the position of Vice President.

He said they have advocated for student empowerment policies and are also proposing a third arm of student representation. “We have the SRC and the Judiciary, what we need is the student Parliament so that we have a large number of leaders who can independently attend to problems across the university.” The dark horse in this race is the University of Botswana’s Alliance for Progressive (AP) which will take another leap of faith despite their loss in the previous election.

They are rejuvenated and redefined. Candidate for Vice President Karabo Bokwe said central to their mandate is making the welfare of the student community a priority. “We want to help eradicate school policies that border on oppression, and through new polices call for initiatives that come with enterprenuership benefits to students.”

AP candidate for Information and Publicity, a first year Criminal Justice student Gracious Selelo said they are more united than other parties even at national level. “We don’t have internal squabbles within our party, we are more focused and can deliver our mandate easily,” she noted.

However the ruling party’s BDP GS-26 will come with all guns blazing after an embarrassing defeat in the previous elections. Preparations have been made and the GS-26 is looking to take the elections by storm.

According to their Presidential Candidate Boniface Seane, they come with the message of hope that addresses the current status quo at the University.“The university is not functioning so we drew three policies that embrace inclusiveness. We want to lead collectively with the students, through the student body meetings which the previous SRCs have failed to do. “We will consult with the students with no discrimination.”

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Healthcare system to improve

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The Health ministry has developed a seven-point programme to guide the country in improving the healthcare system, says Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Rabashemi Madigele.

“The seven priority areas will serve as a roadmap and a guardian angel towards improving the overall healthcare system and increasing access to health care while fighting the burden of disease that confronts us,” said Madigele at Masa Square Hotel on Tuesday.

The focal areas include decentralisation; Universal Health Coverage, Tertiary Care, Strategic leveraging on the Private sector; Supply Chain; Research as well as Staff welfare and accountability.
Point-one of the seven priority areas according to Dr Madigele is about empowering the District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and transforming them into fully fledged Regional Health Authorities.

“In this case, they will be rationalised from 27 to 18 and have the authority to hire A and B Scales, promote up to C1 and manage micro procurement,” he said. Point two is about improving the quality of healthcare services. “The main causes of mortality and their risk factors in Botswana are Primary Health Care issues,” Dr Madigele said.

He added that “Our efforts for the attainment of Universal Health Coverage should thus focus on: Prevention; Comprehensive screening; Early treatment; and Surveillance at the community.”
This he said, would require revamped grassroots efforts in which adequate numbers of community health workers through partnerships with the non-governmental sector will be deployed as necessary.

According to Dr Madigele, the top five causes of death in Botswana in 2017 were HIV/AIDS, Ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and Diabetes. He said compared to 2007, NCDs among these had increased in burden by an average of 34%. The top five risk factors related to these causes of mortality were unsafe sex; poor diet; high blood pressure; alcohol abuse and tobacco use.

Improving the quality of care, Madigele said will also include the safety and security of patients; attitudes of staff as experienced by patients; time taken in queues either before seeing a health worker or receiving medication and the availability of drugs.

Meanwhile, the health minister revealed that the commissioning of Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) is ongoing with the facility scheduled for opening on April 24th. “This will be a phased approach commencing with some services including paediatric oncology, internal medicine, rheumatology and endocrinology, diagnostic radiology, laboratory services and pharmacy”.

A phased commissioning of SKMTH will reduce overdependence on South Africa for referrals, reduce costs and also institutionalise provision of super specialist services within Botswana.

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