FRANCISTOWN: Two men suspected of robbing a woman of a cellphone and valuables worth P200 gave a harrowing account of how their alleged torure led to the death of one co-accused.
The suspects alleged being savagely suffocated by police officers leading to the death of one of their co-accused.
The duo, Thulani Ndiweni, 42, and Tshepo Bhebhe, 32, charged with robbery, appeared before Magistrate Cele Lebakeng on Thursday. The police allege that the accused used violence to dispossess Amina Issa of her property on March 3, 2018 at Block 3.
In addition, Bhebhe was charged with entering Botswana through an ungazetted point of entry at or near Ramokgwebana border post during a date that is unknown to the prosecution.
The duo claims that police officers circumvented arrest procedures and tortured them in custody in order to extract confessions.
They claimed that it was unacceptable for the police to have suffocated them and have now vowed to reveal the truth of how their dead co-accused, Boitshepho ‘Bisto’ Kenyaditswe, a former taxi driver, met his untimely death. The accused told the court that after the police arrested them in connection with the offence of robbery, an identification parade was conducted whereupon Issa identified Kenyaditswe as the culprit who robbed her.
Bhebhe said after the parade, some Kutlwano police officers tortured them by suffocation. Bhebhe said at first the police tortured them as a group but they later continued to torture them individually.
He stated that he was later transferred to Tatitown Police Station where he learnt from one of the cellmates he found there that Kenyaditswe died in a police cell after being tortured. As the arraignment continued, the duo reiterated that they did not rob Issa and instead, the police were implicating them in the matter because they wanted to cover up their tracks in relation to the death of Kenyaditswe.
At the end of the arraignment, Lebakeng made an order that Bhebhe should be taken to a facility for medical attention.
She added: “The prosecution shall avail the investigating officer to come to court to prove or disapprove what the accused
The Botswana Police Service (BPS) spokesperson, senior Superintendent Dipheko Motube recently told a local publication that Kenyaditswe was wanted by the police in connection with using explosives to illegally take money from Automated Teller Machines. Motube said during interrogation, Kenyaditswe said that he was not feeling well and was rushed to a local hospital where he was certified dead. In the past, some accused persons told the court that they were severely beaten by the police while in custody using an assortment of instruments and methods.
In some instances, the suspects claimed that the police used batons, kicked them with their booted feet and used an international form of torture called falanga (beatings on the bottom of the feet) to torture them. It is believed that it is difficult for the naked eye to see if a person was tortured using falanga hence it is a favourite form of torture used by the police worldwide.
In other instances, some accused sometimes appeared in court with swollen and bruised bodies, which may lend credence that the police may have tortured them while they were in custody.
While the police always deny that they torture suspects to extract confessions, family members of the suspects and some sections of the society are of the view that police officers investigating the torture or death of people in custody are more concerned about shielding their colleagues than bringing those responsible to justice.
Some members of the police are even calling for an independent police body to investigate whether suspects are tortured in police custody or not.
The veracity of the suspects’ claims that they were tortured while in police custody is difficult to prove because their complaints are hardly reported (only said in court but not formally reported to the police) nor ever investigated.