Taxpayers will soon have to foot a hefty law suit following the withdrawal of charges against six Botswana nationals who were in 2004 remanded in jail for several months in connection with the murder of Ranchi Maramane, a night watchman who was shot and killed on August 29, 2004 during a robbery in which P61, 000 was stolen.
The murder and armed robbery took place at Selibe Phikwe’s Botshabelo location at Progress Dealer shop.
After the incident, police mounted a manhunt for the robbers and, in the end, arrested the six, namely: Isaac Phiri, Onnetse Kgare, Onnonofile Motswaiso, Ngwako Serumola, Tlotlo Ramogae and Dinaane Mothobi.
They were then charged with murder and armed robbery whose penalty, if found guilty, is execution.
They were all remanded in prison for varying months whilst awaiting trial.
Then an attempted armed robbery occurred at the same business and, on that occasion, the would-be-armed robbers were apprehended.
Employees of Progress Dealer shop then realized that the men were the same ones who had carried out the first armed robbery.
Further to that, ballistics experts confirmed that the gun that was used in the second armed robbery attempt was the same one used in the first armed robbery.
This led to the former Francistown High Court judge Stanley Masuku’s decision to withdraw the charges against the detained suspects.
In fact, it was found out that the armed robbers were Zimbabwean citizens, one of whom was shot and killed during the attempted robbery. The second armed robber committed suicide, whilst the third is currently on remand.
Lawyer Ookeditse Maphakwane has confirmed this incident, adding that he was representing Tlotlo Ramogae, the fifth suspect in the matter.
Maphakwane said that what had happened to the men was very cruel and had cost them their dignity in the eyes of the public.
Besides that, he said they had suffered by being kept behind bars for several months whilst they had not committed any offence.
The Gaborone lawyer blamed this on what he called ‘the over doing of things by the police’ who he said had not considered the facts well before taking the drastic steps of charging the men with serious crimes of murder and armed robbery.
“The police are to blame for this mess just because they had apparently become over excited that they had caught the suspects of the armed robbery and went on to charge innocent people,” he said.
Maphakwane also confirmed that he had received instructions from his client to sue the government for compensation.
Asked how much he would sue for, he said he was still working on it but assured the Sunday Standard that it would be a considerable amount, “taking into consideration the harm this has done to my client”.
“My client has been in-dignified and as such I think the government should compensate him considerably,” he said.
In a similar past case of police overzealousness, taxpayers forked out P89, 000 as compensation to a Tanzanian citizen, Albano Mwilombe, after he was detained in Gaborone Maximum Prison for 30 days.
Mwilombe was arrested in front of the American Embassy when he was enquiring about directions to the Tanzanian embassy immediately after getting off the train at the Gaborone Railway Station. The incident took place a few days after US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed, killing hundreds of people.
Mwilombe said that he thought the authorities thought he was one of the bombers and had come to bomb the American Embassy in Botswana.
Whilst in prison, he said he was never told why he had been detained.
The incident, however, had a happy ending for Mwilombe as his lawyers and the government’s lawyers reached an out of Court settlement, with Lobatse High Court judge David Newman ordering that he should be compensated with P89, 000.
On the night of his departure, as he waited to board an over-night bus to Lusaka, Zambia, where he was to connect to one going to his home country, the Tanzanian joked that he wanted to see the police man who ordered his arrest so that he could buy him a couple of beers as he had made him a rich man.