‘Police use exhibit to sms missing man’s family’

Mpho Laolang, whose nephew, Olefile Moiphitlhi, mysteriously disappeared at the hands of the police was the first to take the stand as a witness in a matter in which the family is seeking answers as to what really happened to their son whom the police say escaped from custody while the family suspects foul play. Laolang told the court of how Police officers used a phone picked from a different crime scene to sms family pretending to be their son who went missing mysteriously.

Appearinng before Justice Rainer Busang of Lobatse High Court, Laolang told the court that upon hearing that their son was wanted by the Police, they asked his brother and cousin to accompany him to the Molepolole Police Station on the 7th of August 2011 which they did. Laolang said Moiphitlhi who was an armed robbery suspect was left in custody of the Police by the two who were told that he would appear in court the following day.

He said the brother whom he only referred to as Shakes went to the Police Station the following morning to find out when the brother will be going to court. “The Police told Shakes that he was in their custody and told him to go to court and that they will find him there, 500 meters from the station he received a call to come back to the police station which he did and was told that his brother had escaped from Old Naledi Police Station in Gaborone,” he said. Laolang said they then went to see Molepolole Police Station Commander who told them that he knew nothing as he was not working on the day. However, the police register showed that the station commander was at work on the day.

Laolang said upon unsatisfactory gesture they then approached the officer commanding in the policing district who he said was also not very helpful denying any knowledge on the matter prompting them to visit the then police commissioner, Thebeyame Tsimako. Tsimako denied any knowledge about a person who escaped or went missing while in police custody. “Tsimako then handed the case to Keabetswe Makgophe as he was on his way out, and Makgophe assigned one Mapenge to investigate the case,” he said.

Laolang told the court that at one point Shakes received an SMS from a number he did not know suggesting that it came from his brother asking him to pass the message to this mother that he was in South Africa and will only come back to Botswana in 2012. “We then took the message to Mapenge and asked him to investigate its origin, he told us that with the help of mobile phone operators he managed to identify one Motseotsile as the owner of the phone and that police officers sent the text message,” he said. Laolang said Mapemge told them that the phone which had sent a message was an exhibit which was picked up after a robbery at a chinese shop and was nowhere to be seen. He said Motseotsile had told Mapenge that he had dropped his phone at the shop earlier than it was used to send the message.

Shakes and Mapenge are expected to among those that will take the witness stand in the trial which is expected to go on until Friday. The family is represented by Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Associates.