Police say they know nothing about four employees of a safari company in the Okavango being allegedly assaulted and paraded naked for the amusement of an abusive anti-poaching detail that found the men in possession of fish, the army says it is fully aware of the matter but won’t say a word, lest investigations become slippery.Staff Writer SESUPO RANTSIMAKO reports
An employee of Machaka Safari was hospitalised after he and three of his colleagues were brutally assaulted by a detail of the anti-poaching unit of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) that also paraded them naked when it found the men in possession of fish in a cooler box, the four have alleged.
The four, Maithoko Nyame, Motlhokomedi Obonye, Moleti Kelebile and , say they reported the matter to Maun Police Station but Station Commander Chenamo Orateng says he is not aware of such a case. “I am not aware of the case you are talking about because I have been out of the office for some time,” Orateng told The Botswana Gazette in an interview.“If it was reported here, I could be aware of it. Maybe I will be briefed later.”
By contrast, the BDF has confirmed awareness of the case but said it would be improper to pre-empt the outcome of investigations by discussing it with the media. “The BDF is aware of a joint BDF and Department of Wildlife (detail) manning a gate Xuruxharaga,” a spokesman of the army, Colonel Tebo Dikole said.“The detail stopped a vehicle and discovered fish suspected to have been acquired illegally.
The men in the vehicle reported to Maun Police Station three days later that they had been assaulted and abused.” The four men have admitted being found in possession of fish on their way from Kiri Camp to Maun but say they had caught the fish at NG32 Concession for consumption in accordance with terms of an arrangement with the Community Trust for Okavango, Kopano and Mokoro. According to the Manager of the trust, SeikanengMoepedi,a licence is required only for commercial fishing as opposed to fishing for consumption.
When the four explained this to the anti-poaching detail, it was allegedly ignored and instead had their fish confiscated. “They confiscated the cooler box and referred us to the Department of Wildlife for enquiries,” said Nyame. They also ordered us to report back to them afterwards.” It was upon their return to the detail that the four men were allegedly assaulted. “They started assaulting us, kicking us severely with their boots,” Nyame continued.
“We begged for mercy but no one cared. When we thought the assault was over, we were made to drink a lot of warm water and eat soil. I was severely injured in my eyes, ears and teeth during the beatings.” In addition to being assaulted, the four allege that they were ordered to undress for the amusement of the detail. “We were then paraded naked in front of them, including a Wildlife woman who was among the soldiers,” Nyame said.“The soldiers jeered and laughed raucously as we paraded our nudity.”
The Botswana Gazette is in possession of minutes of a meeting between the assaulted men and representatives of the BDF and the Department of Wildlife that was apparently convened so that the detail may apologise to the men. In the minutes,Maithoko raises concerns that the soldiers who assaulted them are not present. The four men said they would forgive the BDF provided the company they work for and their parents were involved.