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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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Cops are not monsters – Matlapeng

Yvonne Mooka

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Crime becomes easier to fight when members of the society and the police work together, says Sejelo Police Station Commander Superintendent Mogomotsi Matlapeng.

“Police of today go to the people. We want them to see that we are not fighting them but fighting crime, hence we want to join hands with them,” said the police boss, who joined the police station this year in May from Broadhurst Police station in Gaborone.

He said that gone are the days when police officers were feared by members of the community. Supt. Matlapeng is likeable among members of his staff and the community of Kanye. He has won the hearts of many villagers in a short period of time because of his efforts to take the police station to the people.

Under him, Sejelo Police was awarded Station Community Policing award for this year by the Botswana Police Service. “We go to the people and address their issues. As a philosopher and a perfectionist myself, I believe that community policing is the way to go. “We go to schools and speak to teachers on certain issues relevant to the students. Our clusters also visit local wards to teach parents about pressing matters pertaining to crime,” he said.

Other than stock theft, the police station has recorded relatively low crime statistics. The station covers Kanye Kgosing ward, Moshana, Gasita and Selokolela.

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Murder convict, Masilo not going down without a “fight”

Keletso Thobega

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Thabo Masilo did not cringe when Judge Abednigo Tafa found him guilty of murder this past Thursday. Masilo stood erect staring ahead as if in a trance.

There was not a mutter in the courtroom when Justice Tafa stated that Masilo had intentionally murdered former St. Joseph’s College learner Tshepang Motlhabane on 16 November 2012 in Phase 4 Gaborone. In his ruling, Tafa argued that Masilo could not claim that he was acting in self defence when he had stabbed Tshepang three times. Masilo had through his lawyer Kgosi Ngakayagae insisted that Tshepang was his lover and he had stabbed her following an altercation because she had grabbed him by the balls when he had demanded his phone and P100 he had borrowed her.

Post mortem results show that Motlhabane had three wounds and died from a vein rupture. “If it was indeed self-defence, he would have not stabbed the deceased three times in different places. It is without a doubt that the accused had come to the house with the intention to commit an offence but faced with resistence from his victim, he decided to stab her,” said the judge.
He however dismissed the robbery charge.

It remains a mystery how Masilo gained entry into the property, which had a high wall and alarm system. Curious members of the public, relatives and friends of Tshepang as well as relatives of Masilo flocked Court Room 5 of Lobatse High Court for the ruling. The courtroom was so packed that some people sat at the back on the floor.

Masilo, who has lost a lot of weight, seemed to suffer a ‘leaky bladder’ as he went to the bathroom several times, escorted by prison officers. At one point during the long ruling, Masilo stopped proceedings, and through his lawyer Ngakayagae, complained that there were certain people in the courtroom taking pictures of him.

These people were seen by him only. The ruling that was read over nearly two hours painted a sad ending for the little girl who sustained wounds above the eye, on the chest and died a day after the attack. Tshepang is said to have at one point said to a nurse and relative: A lo boleletse mama gore ke a swa (Did you tell my mother that I am dying). Information provided by medical personnel indicates that she had lost a lot of blood.

Tafa read statements by 13 witnesses including Security System officers, police officers, a forensic expert, nurse, doctor, a relative and a photojournalist. All corroborated that the girl had been attacked and had locked herself in her bedroom from her assailant, who was much later found in hiding in the house. Masilo had claimed that he and the deceased were dating and he had loaned her P100 and his Nokia phone. However, when he visited her and asked that she return the money, a fight ensued and she held him by the testicles.

This, he claimed, led to him taking a kitchen knife and stabbing her in self-defence because she did not want to let go of him. Tafa said that this version of events was questionable and noted that only the accused and deceased were in the house at the said time and it would be difficult to determine exactly what had happened. He however said that there was no doubt that Masilo had killed Motlhabane.

He also noted that Masilo’s actions showed guilt as he had hidden in the ceiling of the house when he heard Security Systems personnel breaking into the house, and had also claimed to have drunk poison. He said if it was not his intention to kill Tshepang; he would have cooperated with the security officers and asked them to help Tshepang promptly.

Following the ruling, Masilo’s lawyer Ngakayagae asked for a date to be set for submissions on extenuation, saying that they would present three witnesses. The date was set to 7 February 2019 at the Gaborone High Court.

Masilo, who is already serving 15 years for robbery and rape, appears to come from a decent home. Many of his relatives were in court to offer moral support. His mother, who appeared agitated, has been by his side from day one. Considering that the family is paying one of the best lawyers in the country, it is safe to say that money is not a problem.

Although Masilo has already been found guilty, the fight appears to be for a more lenient sentence as he faces the hangman’s noose. Outside court, different camps spoke in hushed tones discussing the ruling. The mother of the late Tshepng looked sombre and frail. It is clear that the pain has not left her.

Shying away from flashing cameras and curious glances, she briefly said she was pleased Masilo had been found guilty but refused to comment further. An unidentified family representative chipped in that they were happy with the ruling. Quizzed on how they felt about Masilo she said: “We have forgiven him because we are Christians. But we are glad that justice will be served.”

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