The Botswana Police Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe took the stand yesterday in a case in which the distraught family of Olefile Momphitlhi, who went missing under police custody, have taken the police to court.
Makgophe, who at the time of Momphitlhi went missing was the deputy commissioner of police, said that he was assigned by the then commissioner, Thebeyame Tsimako to assist the family, who had expressed dissatisfaction with the police explanations of the whereabouts of their son. He said that they then lodged an investigation into the matter and constantly met up with the family to give them progress report.
“I was informed that officers had gone to report to Naledi Police Station together with Momphitlhi, and whilst at the police station that is when he escaped,” he said.
Makgophe said that is what they were told on the first progress meeting with the family. The police commissioner said at one of the meetings, the family indicated that they suspected that the police might have killed their son. They said that they had identified a newly dug grave and suspected that Momphitlhi may have been buried there. Makgophe told a courtroom filled with the missing person’s family members that the BPS then followed the lead and discovered that the gravesite the family identified was actually not for their son but it belonged to someone else. He said that they then roped in Interpol to investigate whether Momphitlhi had fled to other countries. Makgophe said the police also investigated a missing cellphone, which was at some stage at the custody of the police, but was used to send a short message to the brother of the missing person.
“Apart from the missing cellphone, the police were also said to be investigating a missing cell register and the occurrence book. “During investigations of the missing person, we realised that officers stationed at the Molepolole police station had been negligent and so the officers concerned were charged for allowing a prisoner to escape,” Makgophe said. He added that the police disciplinary council later overturned his decision. The police boss said that they are still on the hunt of Momphitlhi.
When Makgophe stepped down from the witness stand, one Mothusi Bopego, who was the co-accused in the Momphitlhi’s case, told the court that the officers stationed in Molepolole had threatened to kill the missing man. He said that the officers came into their cell room demanding that Momphitlhi surrender the car and the monies or else they would kill him.
“I was arrested in Palapye for a suspected armed robbery incident that allegedly happened in Molepolole.I was taken to Molepolole where I met Momphitlhi at the police station,” said Bopego, adding that, “After briefly meeting with Momphitlhi I was taken back to my cell and I later heard him screaming continuously.”
Bopego said that same night, two officers returned to their cell and threatened to kill Momphitlhi.He said that they then took Momphitlhi and left with him. He said he has not seen nor heard from his friend and co-accused ever since.
The case continues today before Justice Ranier Busang. The family lawyer, Martin Dingake closed his submissions yesterday after calling 11 witnesses.