A man who spent the longest 14 days of his life at Lobatse Prison last year may provide useful information to police officers who are still trying to figure out how cellphones get into prison.
Last month, The Voice quoted the Director Crime Intelligence in the Botswana Police Service, Senior Assistant Commissioner, Nunu Lesetedi, as saying that the police are at their wits’ end about how prisoners smuggle cellphones into prison, which cellphones they use to scam people on the outside. According to the paper, “Lesetedi said that what is worrisome is that even after searching and confiscating phones, some more phones still find their way into prison.” Resultantly, a team led by four detectives has been assembled to investigate this and related matters.
So, how do prisoners, who are thoroughly searched upon going inside, manage to stay in touch with the outside world. Simple: they use faecal matter to make and receive telephone calls as well as to send and receive messages.
Our source found himself in a cell as a remand prisoner in Lobatse. To obviate what would otherwise be cumbersome logistics of managing the movement of prisoners to and from the toilet, each cell has a communal toilet – which is not enclosed within private space. That means that a prison both number-ones and number-twos in full view of his cellmates.
Shortly after our source was locked up with other prisoners, heavy footsteps and the rattle of a key in the lock announced the arrival of what turned out to be an unusual type of remand prisoner. When the guards had gone back to their duty station, he walked over to the toilet and dropped his trousers for what initially looked like bad, old-fashioned number-twooing. A staccato of multi-octave excretory grunts accompanied by bouts of face-scrunching suggested that the new man was battling unusually stubborn stools. It was indeed extremely stubborn stools but the stools were anything but ordinary. Even more extraordinary was what happened when the sweet moment of relief finally arrived.
The man bounded to his feet, reached behind his back with the hand to that area where the sun never shines and as newbie remand prisoners (like our source) watched in horror, pulled out the blackest, hardest, most symmetrical stool from it. It was the small Nokia cellphone that Batswana call Sedilame. Minutes later, he had wiped it clean, switched it on and was communicating with the outside criminal world. We wanted to know whether it was smudged with “soil.” The source replied in the negative.
Mingling happens at both a Gaborone International Convention Centre dinner and inside prison cells. By such social activity, our source learnt that earlier in the day, the Sedilame-excretor, a career armed robber, had been at a magistrate court for an unsuccessful bail hearing. Hurling lavatorial insults at the presiding officer in absentia, he said that when the application failed, he shoved the phone inside his rectum in order to stay digitally connected even when he was in prison. The rectum is terminal segment of the digestive system in which faeces accumulate just before they are discharged. He whizzed through the strip-search at the prison gates and waited for the right moment to turn the communal cell into a delivery room. His labour paid off in the form of a small bundle of joy with big benefits.
One of the benefits is ability to carry on with the crime business as usual.
“He was planning robberies with his accomplices on the outside right inside prison,” says the source, adding that he was himself enticed with hefty pay for passing on vital intelligence that could aid future robberies.
At least from what criminals know to be the case, some Indian and Chinese businesspeople shun banks for safes in their homes. Where they identify such businesspeople, robbers collect intelligence on them, establishing patterns of when they close shop and get home and also evaluate their home security systems. When opportunity presents itself, they strike, typically tying up family members after the robbery. Our source says that he learnt from the robber that for some reason, the Chinese don’t call the police immediately after a robbery even after freeing themselves from bondage.
“They offered between P10 000 and P20 000 for information about Indian and Chinese targets,” says the source, adding that he declined the offer.
While still locked up, a robber in the same clique as the Sedilame-excretor arrived and was greeted with rapturous applause from those who knew him. Apparently, both are graduates of the Moshupa Boys Prison where they were locked up for petty crime but underwent intensive training that, for now at least, has made rehabilitation a pie in international airspace.
When they are not being used to plan robberies, cellphones are used for a special, prison food order service. At least according to what was current in the grapevine years ago, one too many prison cooks traded good food (especially hunks of choice meat) for sex. Today’s cooks are hard-nosed e-commerce businessmen, not heavy-breathing sex pests.
The prison underground has a secret telephone directory and while in Lobatse, our source says that he received a call from someone he had been charged alongside with, who was himself held at the Maximum Prison in Gaborone. The caller said that prison cooks were selling him food and that unless he popped out P100 for that week’s meals, he would have to keep body and soul together with little more than small portions of starch that, in the way of protein relish, had only been slapped with a soupçon of watered-down broth. The money was to be sent through electronic cash applications: either First National Bank’s e-wallet or Orange Botswana’s Orange Money.
“In this way prison cooks make a lot of money, which they can they then electronically transfer to people outside prison,” the source says.
The rectal consumption and excretion of a Sedilame phone explains why robberies can be planned from inside a prison cell. However, there remains some unanswered questions. While it may be sort of easy to smuggle a phone into prison, not only is it not easy to do so with a charger, there are no electrical outlets in the cell area. When, where and how are these phones recharged and by who?
“Prison guards,” says the source in answer to the last question. “They are underpaid and can be easily corrupted.”
“Where” will be at either their houses or in their offices where there are electrical outlets and the where the sight of a cellphone being recharged doesn’t arouse suspicion.
Via e-commerce, prisoners have been able to fleece more than P1 million from unwitting members of the public. The police sleuthing may be helpful but ending alleged rectal smuggling of Sedilame phones can be tackled with technology (digital scanning machines) that a government that is struggling to pay its employees on time can certainly not afford at this point in time. Inside its airports, Thailand uses those machines to digitally peek inside the stomachs of mules who try to get drugs inside its borders.