Mmegi Online :: Gantsi murder: Echoes of a 20-year mystery
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Gantsi murder: Echoes of a 20-year mystery

In 1997, two Basarwa men narrowly escaped the death penalty, in fact, by hours, after being wrongfully convicted for murder, in a case that exposed the justice systemís inherent biases to poor minorities. Staff Writer, MBONGENI MGUNI reflects as two Gantsi men prepare for their own death penalty ruling this week
By Mbongeni Mguni Fri 23 Jun 2017, 15:05 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Gantsi murder: Echoes of a 20-year mystery








Tlhabologang Maauwe and Gwara Motswetla, two men who did not know their exact birthdates, were illiterate and nearly exclusively spoke a Sesarwa dialect, are today engraved as milestones in the history of the local judiciary.

In 1997, media carried pictures of the gaping graves that had been prepared for the two, as a death sentence neared its execution. The two men were spared by a last minute legal challenge, escaping the hangman’s noose by a mere six hours.

While Mauuwe and Motswetla came from the Central District, their case echoes one currently before the Lobatse High Court involving two men from Gantsi and Werda. Tshiamo Kgalalelo and Mmika Mpe will on Wednesday carry out extenuation and mitigation in a matter in which they face the death penalty for abducting, murdering and robbing an Afrikaner businesswoman and farmer, Reinette Vorster in January 2014.

Maauwe and Motswetla were estimated to be between 28 and 30 years old at the time of the alleged murder, while Kgalalelo and Mpe were 29 and 24 years old respectively in January 2014.

Both sets of men were farm hands and were impoverished.

For Maauwe and Motswetla, events leading up to the murder include a severe drought in 1994/95 which worsened poverty in their already impoverished village.

According to research by human rights watchdog, Ditshwanelo, based on affidavits, interviews and court records, on January 31, 1995 Maauwe and Motswetla endured another unsuccessful day of searching for squirrels. They came across a stray ox, killed it, ate it and took the rest of the meat home.

Bashingi Majeremane, a Kalanga farmer, meanwhile left home to search for

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stray cattle. The following day, Mauuwe and Motswetla returned to the site of the previous day’s slaughter where they encountered Majeremane. A fight ensued and the farmer died.

“The details of this fight are highly contentious. The men involved returned to Xaundichia cattle post and consulted with the family elder to decide what to do,” reads “In the Shadow of the Noose,” a 2006 Ditshwanelo research title on the case.

The men returned to the scene of the incident and burnt Majeremane’s body, although witnesses disagree on who burnt the body. On April 27, 1997 Judge Gyeke-Dako found Mauuwe and Motswetla guilty of murder and finding no extenuating circumstances and instead “sheer greed,” sentenced them to death. In July 1997, the Court of Appeal upheld Gyeke-Dako’s sentence and the two herdsmen went to the gallows.

Kgalalelo and Mpe, meanwhile, according to testimony led in court and Judge Abednego Tafa’s findings, schemed to rob Reinette Vorster and using a ruse, abducted her, strangled her to death and robbed her of various valuables.

They burnt her in her vehicle and fled on horseback. On May 18, 2017 Tafa found them guilty of abduction, murder and robbery, in that order.

Arguments on extenuation and mitigation are due for Wednesday.

For Maauwe and Motswetla, last minute legal challenges by Ditshwanelo and Kgafela Kgafela resulted in a ruling that the entire case was a mistrial, with issues around the language used in testimony, confessions and others brought up.

It remains to be seen whether the men from Gantsi will be able to fully mirror the 20-year case and escape the hangman’s noose.

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