Sunday, May 29, 2022

Thato “the bomber” Gaopatwe’s alleged brother in transnational robberies

A Motswana man believed to be younger brother to the notorious transnational heist mastermind, Thato Bomber Gaopatwe was last week arraigned before the Francistown Regional Magistrate Court alongside South African and Zimbabwean robbery suspects.

Botlhe Gaopatwe 25 is believed to be related to the 30 year old Thato ‘Bomber” Gaopatwe who is currently serving jail time in South Africa for his involvement in several heists in that country.

Thato Gaopatwe is reported to be masterminding a syndicate of armed robbers  between Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe from prison in South Africa.

Sunday Standard could not establish if this gang is linked to Bomber’s gang currently being incarcerated in South Africa.

According to court documents passed to the Sunday Standard, three robbery suspects, 36-year-old Sphamandla Witness Ncube from Zimbabwe, Lucky Ndimande(34) and Sakhile Mkhize(26) both South Africans last Friday admitted facts incriminating them before Regional Magistrate Taboka Mopipi in Francistown.

The trio is facing charges of unlawful possession of arms and ammunition, entering Botswana illegally and possession of property stolen outside Botswana. They have since pleaded guilty to the charges.

The accused are charged collectively with two Botswana nationals, Botlhe Gaopatwe (25) and Baliki Kemmonye Gaborone (35) who have since pleaded not guilty to the offences.

All the accused persons are suspected to have been involved in some of the robberies that have been haunting the country.

According to the facts presented by the prosecution, on the 29th of October 2021 at or near Mosetse village in the Central District, the police at Dukwi Police Station received a tip from a source  that there were some unknown men who were housed by one Botlhe Gaopatwe(one of the accused). Dukwi police officers decided to visit the place and on their way their attention was caught by a black Audi of registration B446 BPC. The same car had been mentioned in the tip off from their source.

The registration number of the Audi was checked with the Vehicle Licensing System and it revealed that the plate number was not genuine.

The Audi was then escorted to Dukwi Police Station and the other police team proceeded to Mosetse and reached the home of the address they had been given. The moment they reached the homestead one man fled the scene and five others were in the house. The police officers introduced themselves and explained their visit. A search was conducted in one of the rooms and six 9mm live rounds of ammunition were found, type 54 pistol loaded with 8 live rounds ammunition, F98 pistol loaded with 10 fire rounds ammunition and a revolver.

When questioned about the items, the five men denied knowledge of the items. They said they were bought by a certain Tshepo who was not amongst them. A Police Detective, one Inspector Jappie, was allocated the matter to investigate. It turned out that the three accused persons who have since pleaded guilty to the charges among them were South Africans. One was a Zimbabwean national. The investigations further revealed that they entered Botswana illegally.

In furthering his investigations, the police detective sent the guns and ammunition that were found in possession of the accused to the ballistics laboratory which revealed that the items were weapons of war and the accused had no license to possess them.

They were also found to be in possession of a stolen item being a black Audi SR6 with a fake Botswana registration number.

Investigations revealed that the vehicle was stolen at gun point in South Africa. The three accused persons knew that the car they were in possession of was stolen.

When the affidavit came from the ballistics laboratory, the investigating officer demanded a license of possessing firearms and ammunition from the accused persons and they also failed to produce the same. Inspector Jappie warned and charged the accused persons.

The prosecution has since tendered the Black Audi SR6, live round ammunition, silver revolver, type 54 pistol with a magazine and a ballistic affidavit as evidence before court. The court has further remanded all the accused in custody.

K.Kapongo from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was prosecuting while all the accused were not represented.

The case will continue on the 1st of April 2022 and the prosecution is yet to establish if the three accused foreign nationals have other previous convictions.

Thato Gaopatwe was part of a five-man gang that robbed a G4S CIT car of R200million in broad daylight in Boksburg in 2018.

They are currently serving jail time for attempted murder, malicious damage to property, possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

The gang was also mentioned in the South African media connected to the arrest of the media-coined heist kingpin Wellington “Bibi” Cenenda who is said to have been involved in 23 cash heists

Thato Gaopatwe, was known as “Bomber” for his expertise in bombing of CIT cars and ATMs.

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