The Botswana bus and combi industry has been invaded by gangsters who are hiring hit men to take out their competitors ÔÇô Sunday Standard investigations have revealed.
The Botswana Police Service is understood to be poring over a hit list of local public transport operators that has been passed to a hired assassin.
It has also emerged that the gangsters who have muscled in on the industry have contracted arsonists to run their competitors out of town.
So far, eight long haul buses and commuter mini buses have been torched in what is believed to be an attempt to scare owners out of the industry.
In the latest incident, two mini buses belonging to Ikageleng Transports and a bus that belongs to NKK Express were gutted by fire while parked at night.
Earlier last month five buses belong to TJ Motlhogelwa were also set on fire by unknown arsonists in Francistown.
Last Monday, two suspected arsonists were arraigned before the Serowe senior magistrate on three counts of malicious damage to property.
The accused persons Moganetsi Sebego, 34, of Tlokweng, a bus operator and Patrick Tlhofaetse, 26, of Mmopane Village were given bail of P2 000 each while police investigations are continuing.
Botswana Police Service Director of Traffic Division, Senior Assistant commissioner Bruno Paledi said two of the men are at the centre of police investigations following the torching of two 25-seater mini buses and a 60-seater servicing the Gaborone-Serowe route.
He said that the 60-seater bus was burned down to a charred skeleton while the other two are repairable.
Information passed to Sunday Standard revealed that the Botswana Police Service is investigating a hit-list of transport operators who have been fingered to a hired assassin. The assassination targets have allegedly also been fingered to arsonists who have started burning down their buses and combies.
The industry is also reported to have been invaded by pirates who are muscling out legitimate public transport operators.
He said they are aware of fraudulent permits but, at times, it is difficult to arrest the holders of such permits unless they are notified of such permits. The pirates are believed to be part of a huge racket that includes public officers employed by the Department of Transport.
Speaking to Sunday Standard, the chairperson of the Botswana Bus Association, Tirafalo Mponang, said the transport industry is now becoming dirty.
He said, as an association, they were shocked to hear that one of the bus operators is among the suspected arsonists.
“I can neither confirm nor deny that the suspect is a member of the association,” he said. The BBA chairperson confirmed the infighting between the organization’s members and non members who are mostly pirates.
The Acting Director Road Transport and Safety, Oganne Maroba, would not discuss both the hit list and the Public service vehicle black market saying he did not want to compromise police investigations.
Detective Assistant Superintendent, Gagoitsiwe Seisa, of Central police station in Francistown, told Sunday Standard that they have not yet arrested any culprits in connection with the burning of the five buses belonging to TJ Motlhogelwa, adding that police strongly suspect foul play.
He appealed to the members of the public to come forward with any information that could lead to arrests of the culprits.
The chairman of the Transport Appeal Tribunal Board, Kesiametswe Gabaake, said his board has been inundated with complaints emanating from the issuance of permits. He said most applicants complained that they had been waiting in the PSV permit queue but their competitors had been allowed to jump the queue because they had friends inside the Transport Department.