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Soldiers, cops assault residents – claim

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Mochudi Police are investigating complaints of assault leveled against a group of soldiers and police officers who were on duty during the festive holidays. Two of the alleged victims who are still reeling from the shock of violence meted out on them are Sipho Kgakole (21), a third year student at the University of Botswana and his friend Thato Nthaga (21) a first year student at Maun Technical College, who were beaten black and blue by the uniformed men.

According to Kgakole, on Saturday, 2 January 2016, his friend Nthaga was walking him halfway at around 11pm after a visit, when a police van approached them. Two police officers and three soldiers jumped off and demanded to know where they were going.

“Thato told them that he was walking me home. They asked us to raise our hands and searched us. We didn’t resist. One of them poked and hit me with a baton in the stomach saying that I had not raised my hands high enough. Thato asked him why he had to do that and requested that they let us go since they had not found anything incriminating on us. The officers said he was cheeky and started harassing him, demanding that he should do press-ups as punishment.”

The two young men called the police station in an attempt to report the unsavoury treatment. “The officer who took our call said we should take down their names and submit a formal complaint. Luckily they were still in the vicinity. When we asked for their names, only one police officer, a certain Constable Podile, revealed his identity. The soldiers said we are troublesome, handcuffed us together and shoved us into the police van.

They then drove around doing rounds in the village with us in the back. It was only when I complained that the handcuffs are hurting me, as the grip was too tight, that they handcuffed us separately.” But little did they know that this was just the beginning of their ordeal. Kgakole says the officers then asked where they live.

“Nthaga told them that he lives at the Molefi Secondary School teachers’ quarters. As we drove off in that direction, one officer said they could not drop us off without beating us up. I thought they were joking until they unleashed slaps and punches on us alternating with bashing us with batons. I saw stars.”

Kgakole says the officers continued to beat him up after they had dropped Nthaga off. “At some point I pretended to have passed out, hoping they would leave me alone but one of them kicked me in the stomach. I sat up and they continued beating me, mocking me saying that I am a coward.”

When they dropped him off his shocked grandparents took him to the police station. Nthaga arrived shortly thereafter in the company of his mother. The two camps were assisted by Inspector Lucky Gouwe, who called the officers to the police station. “They confirmed that they had come across us but denied beating us up. It was strange because we were still bruised and bleeding.”

They insist that some of the officers appeared drunk. The two families suggested an alcohol test but the police were reluctant. “Gouwe said he had no powers to test the soldiers. He made several calls and said the soldiers’ senior was coming from Gaborone. We sat there until 5am waiting for a person who never arrived. We then filed a statement and went to the hospital,” shared Kgakole’s mother. Their medical test results show that they suffered swollen abdominal muscles, swollen necks and wrists.

Kgakole’s mother said she was not with her son on the night of the incident. “I was in Mochudi but elsewhere, while Sipho was visiting his grandparents. I understand officers beat them up for no apparent reason. We are awaiting further correspondence from the police on the matter.” Nthaga’s mother was cagey with details, insinuating that speaking to the media might interfere with police investigations.

 Inspector Gouwe confirmed the assault complaints. “We have received complaints from five other residents who say they were harassed and assaulted by soldiers and police officers who were on patrol duty during the holidays. We have taken down their statements and investigations are ongoing.”

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