Former Journalist Charged With Threat-To-Kill

Former Journalist Charged With Threat-To-Kill
Former Journalist Charged With Threat-To-Kill

FRANCISTOWN: The Makgekgenene family name in Tonota has been brought into disrepute after one of their own, Aleesi Joseph Makgekgenene, appeared in court on Friday to face one count of threat-to-kill.

Makgekgenene, 35, is a close relative to former cabinet minister and Member of Parliament (MP) for Tonota, Lemme Makgekgenene, who received a Presidential Order of Honour (PH) in 2008. The Makgekgenenes are not only known in political circles in Botswana but are also renowned for their business prowess. According to another Makgekgenene relative, the Makgekgenene and the Patrick Balopi families are related in the sense that both Lemme and Balopi married daughters from the same family. Just like Lemme, Patrick is an entrepreneur and has been an MP for 20 years holding several cabinet and ministerial positions.

In his political career, Patrick has held the position of chairperson of the SADC Parliament Forum. He is currently the chair of Turnstar Holdings Ltd. According to the charge sheet, Makgekgenene, a former journalist at the Sunday Standard newspaper and its sister publication, The Telegraph, without any lawful excuse, threatened to kill Felicia Kerekeng Balopi in October 23, 2021, at or near Tonota.

Makgekgenene, who also told the court that he is now an assistant pastor at Winners’ Chapel International in Gaborone, allegedly sent a Short Message Service (SMS) to Balopi saying: “I am going to kill Kerekeng Balopi”. After charges were read to Makgekgenene, whose plea has been reserved as investigations are still at their initial stages, prosecutor Joy Nametsegang from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) called the investigating officer (IO) to give reasons why Makgekgenene should be remanded in custody. The IO, detective sub-inspector Fanilo Manyapedza, told the court that on October 23 he received a report from Balopi to the effect that she has been threatened by the accused via an SMS. Manyapedza added that the SMS read: “I am going to burn your house and the car that my father bought for you”. During the accused’s appearance in court, it was not clear how Makgekgenene’s father and the complainant are related, a situation that prompted Makgekgenene to threaten to kill Balopi.

However, sources close to the matter have intimated to this publication how the complainant and Makgekgenene’s father are linked – a connection that will be revealed in the trial, where it is expected questions of the nature of their relationship will be raised. The IO continued: “The accused was subsequently arrested through the assistance of Broadhurst police officers in Gaborone where he resides. During my investigations, I found it appropriate to remand the accused in custody for the safety of the complainant and protection of the life of the accused.

Our investigations are still at the initial stages. “I fear that if the accused is granted bail, he may execute his intention to kill the complainant. Even the safety of the accused is also in danger taking into consideration that most of the witnesses are his relatives.” Asked by Magistrate Thabang Chokwe how the accused may tamper with the investigations, Manyapedza said that he has not yet recovered the cellphone that was allegedly used to send the SMS. “We need time to investigate if the cellphone that the accused allegedly used to send the SMS was stolen as he claims or if he has hidden it to conceal evidence,” Manyapedza answered.

When cross-examining Manyapedza, Makgekgenene denied ever threatening to kill the complainant. However, Chokwe advised Makgekgenene not to give evidence but only ask the IO why he (IO) said that he should not be granted bail. Makgekgenene then asked Manyapedza how he was going to tamper with the investigation because he never tampered with anything from the October 23 to November 15 period, when the matter was first reported leading to his subsequent arrest. Makgekgenene added that he has never tried to escape from custody and was not in any danger as the IO has implied. Before Manyapedza answered, Chokwe advised Makgekgenene to limit his questioning to the issue of his bail and stop giving evidence as the case has not yet reached the stage he (Makgekgenene) will be allowed to give his evidence.

After listening to Chokwe’s advice, Makgekgenene asked the IO how he was a threat to the complainant’s life since he lives in Gaborone while the complainant resides in Tonota. The IO’s response opened a can of worms for Makgekgenene. Manyapedza said: “On November 15, 2021, the complainant received another threat to kill SMS from the accused.

This second SMS prompted us to arrest the accused because at first, we thought that since the matter also implicated his father, we learnt that it could be solved at the family level...” “...we now had no choice but to arrest the accused since it became very clear that he harboured the intention to kill the complainant.” Makgekgenene, who implicates his brother, continued to plead to be granted bail, asking the IO how he would tamper with the investigation since the police are going to broaden their investigations to the service provider to ascertain where the alleged SMS was sent from.

In response, Manyapedza curtly said: “The cellphone that we took from you is new and you bought it after your previous cellphone was stolen as you claim or you hid it in order to conceal evidence”. Makgekgenene vehemently denied the assertions of the IO. He told the IO that after he lost his cellphone, he went to replace his lost Subscriber Identity/Identification Module (SIM) card but never changed his old number and then bought a new cellphone. Makgekgenene further asserts the IO is fuelling suspicion that he may have hidden his old cellphone to conceal evidence. Makgekgenene then argued that since his alleged charge is simply a cybercriminal offence, which will entail cyber investigations, how then was he a threat to his brother and family should the court grant him bail. In response, Manyapedza said: “I said so because already there is a family dispute concerning this matter, which raises suspicions that some of the accused’s family members may endanger his life if he is granted bail.” At the end of the accused’s arraignment in court,

Chokwe denied Makgekgenene bail.

He said: “Because the fact that the State is yet to recover the cellphone that was allegedly used to send the SMS, I am inclined to refuse to grant you bail. You shall be further remanded in custody and appear in court again on December 2 when the court shall consider if it will grant you bail or not”.

Editor's Comment
Hooliganism Uncool!

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