Ndumiso Tshabalala, who claims to be a member of the South African Police, says that he intends to sue the Government of Botswana for an undisclosed amount of money for having been unlawfully arrested, tortured and remanded in custody for 23 months on suspicion that he was involved in the FNB Broadhurst armed robbery that took place on 23 March, 2006.
Tshabalala says his nightmare started on March 24, 2006 when he was arrested at the Ramokgwebane boarder gate, through which he intended to pass to collect his car from his cousin of whom he had heard had driven his car to South Africa via Zimbabwe without his permission.
During his arrest, he claimed that he told the police that he knew nothing about the armed robbery but the police did not believe him and, instead, took him to Tsetsejwe where they jailed him for a night. The following day, he said, he was picked up by officers from the Broadhurst Criminal Investigation department who brought him to Gaborone where he claimed he was mercilessly and severely tortured by CID officers day and night.
He claims that throughout all this time, he told them that he knew nothing about the armed robbery but that they did not believe him and continued torturing him.
After some days, he claims he was remanded before he even made his first appearance in Court and that he saw Nomsa Magalila, whom he said he knew as his cousin’s girlfriend, and was told by the police that she was being jointly charged for the offence along with another woman, Tshoganetso Makhumalo, who was then a University of Botswana student.
Tshabalala said after that he was denied bail on several occasions on grounds that he was a foreigner and that he was likely to flee the country if granted bail. He said that he tried to explain that he would not flee the country because he knew he was innocent but that Magistrate Nehemia Mguni did not believe him and he was taken back into custody where his torture continued.
All this time, he said that the only evidence the police had against him was that his car was used in the armed robbery but that they refused to listen to his explanation that it was used without his permission.
“All my explanations that the car was used without my permission fell on deaf ears. They felt I knew about the robbery,” he said.
Life behind bars, he said, was “hell” for a person like him who had never been in jail before.
“When all this happened to me, I regretted why I had come to Botswana in the first place,” he said.
He said that on February 12, 2008 he could not believe his ears when the state prosecutor, Frederick Mpopang, told the Court that he was withdrawing charges against him because of lack of evidence against him.
“I had always known that this was finally going to happen because I had not committed any crime,” he said with a smile.
Tshabalala said the false case against him made him suffer as he was tortured and said that he had lost hearing in his right ear.
Besides that he says that his employers, the South African Police, are reluctant to accept him back because of what had happened and that is why he says he is suing for the loss.
Tshabalala says his arrest was a result of the police’s over zealousness to arrest someone in connection with the armed robbery even though there was no evidence against him.
He claims that he has heard that the suspected armed robbers have since been arrested in Namibia for the same offence they are alleged to have committed here.
Currently, only Nomsa Magalila is still in custody in connection with the case whilst Tshoganetso Makhumalo has turned state witness.
It is alleged that, after the robbery, Makhumalo drove the armed robbers to the Botswana\Zimbabwe boarder.
Mpopang, commenting on Tshabalala’s threat to sue, said that all he knows is that Tshabalala has been released from jail in order to be a state witness and not that he has no case to answer.
“If that were not the case, Tshabalala would still be in jail,” said Mpopang.