His family vows that Patrick Gabaakanye was a good, obedient child who went wrong. Villagers in Kweneng know him as ‘Raselepe’, the terror who axed his way through a decade of fear. Others know him as ‘Khadi’ a nickname for his alcoholism. Staff Writer, MBONGENI MGUNI, profiles the 57-year-old man executed on Wednesday
On Tuesday this week, Patrick Gabaakanye received a message. Since July 2014, Gabaakanye had spent his time alone at the Gaborone Central Prison, separated from other prisoners. The 57-year-old no doubt had been waiting and expecting this moment.
His family, too poor to travel, had not visited.
Gabaakanye was on death row for a 2010 murder, the culmination of a life of violent crime, during which he had had a 1993 death sentence commuted to 15 years.
Since his conviction for the 2010 murder and the sentence of death, Gabaakanye had occupied a cell separate from other prisoners at Gaborone Central Prison. His only companion, day and night, was a prison guard ensuring constant supervision.
On Tuesday, the Serowe-born career criminal of San extraction was officially informed that on Wednesday morning he would take a short walk to have a thick rope fastened around his neck. From there, everything would go dark.
The message asked Gabaakanye to give instruction as to the disposal of his property.
In line with the Prisons Act, President Ian Khama had signed off on Gabaakanye’s execution and on Wednesday morning, his body was carried off to a corner of the prison grounds. A life of crime, which dated back to the early 1980s and involved thefts, rapes, attempted murders and murders, had come to an end, even as the rising sun spread its rays across the capital city.
In the aftermath of his death, details about Gabaakanye’s troubled life have come forward, shedding light on how a young man described by his family as ‘very good and obedient boy’ was transformed into the stuff of nightmares in Kweneng and possibly other areas.
According to a file for clemency submitted in vain by Gabaakanye’s lawyers, the Serowe man was born into extreme poverty, abandoned by his father and neglected by his mother.
The young family struggled and survived on pap and morogo ‘foraged from the bush’, as well as begging the benevolence of neighbours. Meat was never eaten.
“The one-room house Patrick lived in was built by the government to house the destitute and the family owned no land of their own.
“The family would often go for days at a time without food, eating only when his mother was able to find work or when the family was able to beg from neighbours.
“The family never ate meat, but survived on pap and morogo foraged from the bush.
“There was no clean water for the family to drink and to use to bathe as there were no standpipes or wells where they lived.
“The family would have to dig in the ground by the river to find water.
“Two of Patrick’s sisters died during childhood and his mother was also often sick,” reads the clemency appeal, filed unsuccessfully by lawyers with Khama.
The young Gabaakanye exhibited symptoms of mental ill-health, and was described as very reserved and quiet. He would frequently be beaten up and taken advantage of and reported long-term memory problems.
“Patrick displays behaviour, which suggests that his brain may have been damaged by
Patrick’s family has explained that he grew very slowly.
The young child never attended school and instead herded sheep and goats, and as a child, he left the family home to live with his uncle at a remote cattle post.
“There he assisted with herding the cattle. Patrick worked on the cattle post and later on a farm owned by the same family until he was made redundant in the 1980s.
“Patrick had no education or skills to rely on and, after losing the job he had since he was a small child, felt he had no hope of a decent life.
“At this time Patrick appeared to lose purpose in his life and fell in with people who put him under pressure to get involved in criminal activity.”
Gabaakanye’s criminal career kicked off in the early 1980s, fuelled by poverty and a growing alcoholism he had built up from the years his mother brewed traditional beer to eke out a living.
According to his lawyers, Gabaakanye’s mother taught her children to brew traditional beer and was a heavy drinker herself, even while pregnant with Gabaakanye. When he was a child, Gabaakanye gained the nickname ‘Khadi’ suggesting he had access to and began abusing the illicit brew at a young age.
“This is the name of a home-brewed alcohol made from forest fruits and suggests that Patrick was familiar with alcohol from a very young age.
“Alcohol was brewed at home and it is likely that Patrick would have been able to take it and drink it, particularly given the lack of availability of water to Patrick and his family.
“It is well-documented that long-term consumption of alcohol can cause brain damage.”
His lawyers believe Gabaakanye’s brain was damaged by the long-term alcoholism, particularly the continuous intake of illicit brews whose alcoholic content and effects are unknown.
However, Gabaakanye was never granted a psychiatric examination and while defence counsel has reports from a psychologist pointing to possible mental abnormalities, there is no proof.
Alcohol was on Gabaakanye’s mind on May 26, 2010 when he approached 74-year-old Rapula Serojane’s homestead in Ga-Mosu lands near Metsimotlhabe village, late in the evening.
Court records indicate Gabaakanye used a false pretext to approach the visually impaired man’s wife and attacked the couple with an axe, killing the man and leaving the woman for dead. He made off with small households items of little value.
Gabaakanye’s clemency plea suggests he told his lawyers a different story.
“On the night of the offence Patrick had not eaten all day.
“He spent his last few pula on a bottle of Chibuku and became drunk.
“Later that evening he came across the deceased and his wife.
“Patrick does not remember why or how he hit the deceased. “He describes becoming angry and ‘everything becoming dark’.”
On Wednesday morning, all appeals exhausted and ready for the rope, everything became dark one last time for Gabaakanye.