Mpho Mawele had a very simple answer when the Deputy Urban Customary Court President, Godfrey Moitlobo, asked her why she pretended to be Jacqueline Khama (vice president Ian Khama’s sister) each time she called the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency office in Letlhakane to inquire about her application for a loan.
“Mong wame, ke ne ke itshietse [My Lord, I was drunk],” she replied in a low voice. “I would drink before I did all this.”
After being sentenced, Mawele swore off alcohol and said that she would also be making a trip to Serowe kgotla pretty soon to apologise for her criminal use of the Bangwato traditional leader.
Seconds earlier she had been at pains to explain why, of all the people in the pecking order of the Bangwato chieftaincy, she had decided to use the name of the man at the very top ÔÇô Khama.
If drinking is what made her blood turn blue, it must have been one very long drinking spree because Mawele, a 50-year old woman from Mmadinare, made persistent calls to the CEDA office in Letlhakeng. In her stupor she failed to stick to one name. The manager of the office told the court that the caller at the other end of the line would identify herself either as “Jacqueline Seretse” on some days and “Jacqueline Khama” on others.
Mawele’s Dutch courage had the effect of disarming her mental defences and last Tuesday she walked right into a trap laid by the Serious Crime Squad (SCS). The sting operation was as elaborate as her tale about being vice president Khama’s sister.
Some time this month, information about a “Jacqueline Khama” who had been persistently calling the CEDA office demanding that a particular loan application be fast-tracked, reached Khama who contacted the head of the SCS and had them launch an investigation. Mawele was lured to the offices of the CEDA branch in Gaborone by way of a false provisional offer letter.
Believing that she had finally hit pay dirt, she came rushing only to walk into the waiting arms of SCS officers.
Last Friday morning, Sergeant Oadisa Gaelebale brought Mawele before the Urban Customary Court to answer common nuisance charges.
When Moitlobo asked Mawele whether both Khamas knew and could recognise her, she answered in the affirmative about Khama but was uncertain about whether his sister would remember her.
It turns out that Mawele worked for Khama as a maid when he was still in the army. What she actually told the court with regard to this particular point was that she would go to his house to do laundry (“ke ne ke ya go suga marokgwe le dihempe.”) That would be where and how she got to know Jacqueline whom, by her account, she became friends with.
“Do you look like her?” Moitlobo asked Mawele.
“Are you the same age as her?”
“No. I’m probably three years older than her.”
“Would she recognise you when she meets you?”
“I don’t know. We haven’t seen each other in quite a while.”
For her part, Mawele was determined not to forget the magic of Jacqueline’s name and in the middle of last month, she applied for a CEDA loan to start a business project in Letlhakane.
The CEDA branch in Letlhakane is headed by Pauline Gagoitseope who testified at Mawele’s trial on Friday morning.
Gagoitseope recalled to the court that at the beginning of the saga, she received a telephone call from woman who said that she had recently graduated from the University of Botswana and was now working in the Office of the Vice President. The lady told Gagoitseope that she had been instructed by vice president to inform the CEDA office that an applicant by the name of Mpho Mawele would be coming to the office and that he – vice president – wanted Gagoitseope and nobody else to handle her application.
The manager got to meet the applicant in the afternoon the following day. Mawele told Gagoitseope that she had travelled from Gaborone with vice president Khama who dropped her off at the gate of the Orapa diamond mine (access into the mine is controlled) before he proceeded to Maun.
Gagoitseope, who said that at the time she genuinely believed that she was dealing with the Khamas, conducted a short interview with Mawele. At the end of the interview, Gagoitseope pointed out to the applicant that her application could not be processed as some vital information was missing on it.
“I told her that we could not accept her application because it was incomplete. That is standard procedure,” Gagoitseope told the court.
Mawele went away but soon afterwards the CEDA office received another call from a lady who identified herself as Jacqueline. This Jacqueline expressed grave displeasure at the way in which Mawele’s application was being mishandled. She told the office that vice president Khama had instructed that the application be processed immediately and that all other missing information could be provided at a later stage. The urgency, the caller explained, was that the project had to be up and running before April 1 when Khama became president. Khama was supposed to officially launch this project before his own inauguration, “Jacqueline” told the CEDA office.
In the following days, “Jacqueline” became more impatient and decided to take the matter up with CEDA’s Chief Executive, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka. She complained to Matsheka (referred to as “Dr.” during the trial) about how his subordinates in Letlhakane were giving Mawele a hard time. She also stated that she was willing to contribute P200 000 worth in cattle but when she was supposed to do that, indicated that would take a bit of time as the cattle were marked with Khama’s brand.
The precise details did not come out in court but somewhere along the way, the CEDA people smelled a rat and reported the matter to the police. Then would have been when the idea of the fake offer letter which led to Mawele’s arrest was conceived.
Mawele’s sole explanation for her actions was that she was roaring drunk each time she claimed to be Jacqueline, Sir Seretse Khama’s first child and only daughter.
The irony is that Mawele’s idea was “quite good” (according to Gagoitseope) and its chances of success did not have to be embellished with fraudulent name-dropping.
Mawele said that she got the idea from her travels in South Africa. In response to a question from Moitlobo she added that she was not that drunk when that brainwave hit her.
She was clearly remorseful and would speak over Moitlobo’s statements and questions to emphasise how sorry she was. Somehow she knows that Khama has heard about what she did. Moitlobo asked her how she knew that and she said that the vice president’s Private Secretary, Colonel Isaac Kgosi, has passed on the damning information to the man who becomes Botswana’s fourth president on Tuesday.
Mawele faced the charge of common nuisance which, in terms of the Penal Code, carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. However, she got away with a sentence of only three months in jail wholly suspended for a year.
Moitlobo said that although Mawele had committed a grave offence that involves the fraudulent use of the name of a leader whom the nation has invested a great deal of trust in, he had also considered the fact that she had also been remorseful about her wrongdoing and was an elderly person who was also looking after her grandchildren.