THE commissioner of police, Holomo Molibeli, says the police’s negligence enabled fraud-accused ‘Makarabo Mojakhomo to disappear from police custody in May this year.
Commissioner Molibeli said the fact that the suspect was a woman contributed to the police’s complacency as they did not employ the normal full security measures like deploying a heavy guard and handcuffing the suspect as they do when the suspect is male.
Ms Mojakhomo was arrested on 29 May this year with fraud and theft of at least M200 000 from First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane’s Trust Fund. She was due in court on 31 May but she did not appear after the police claimed she had escaped from custody while they were preparing to take her to court.
But Ms Mojakhomo’s family came out guns blazing insisting there is no way that she could have broken out of tightly guarded police cells. The family subsequently petitioned the High Court for an order for the police to produce her dead or alive.
The family cited social media reports that she could have been murdered by the police as one of the reasons for its bid to have her produced before the court. They even subpoenaed Ms Thabane and the Police minister, ‘Mampho Mokhele to testify before the court as their testimony “would assist the court to reach a conclusion as to whether or not ‘Makarabo escaped from police custody or was made to disappear by the police”.
However, in a dramatic turn of events, the family’s lawyer, Advocate Letuka Molati, this week wrote to Commissioner Molibeli informing him that Ms Mojakhomo was alive and well in an unknown location in South Africa. Adv Molati stated that contrary to the police allegations, Ms Mojakhomo did not escape but “was abducted with the direct help of the police from the police custody”.
And on Tuesday, Commissioner Molibeli was a relieved man when he addressed the media at the Police Headquarters in Maseru.
He however, said Ms Mojakhomo had escaped because “we were negligent in that women suspects in police custody are normally not placed under heavy guard or cuffed”.
He also said he suspected that some police officers could have conspired to facilitate her escape.
“Any woman suspect is hardly ever handcuffed as we regard them as harmless by virtue of their being. But we acknowledge that there was some form of connivance in her escaping and this is a lesson to us that women can also escape.”
Commissioner Molibeli further said he was happy that Ms Mojakhomo was alive and this absolved them of the speculation that the state had murdered her just like in the case of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng.
PC Khetheng was last seen being arrested by Hlotse police on 25 March 2016 during a feast in Sebothoane, Leribe, for allegedly torching his senior’s house in Mokhotlong where he was deployed.
PC Khetheng’s remains were eventually exhumed at Lepereng Cemetery in the Maseru district on 11 August 2017 after the police were granted a court order by the Magistrate’s Court in light of the investigations into his disappearance and suspected murder.
Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu (51), Senior Inspector Mabitle Matona (39), Sub Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane (44) and Inspector Mothibeli Mofolo (49) have since been charged with murdering PC Khetheng.
And on Tuesday, Commissioner Molibeli said he was “elated to hear that she (Ms Mojakhomo) is alive as the state was suspected of causing her enforced disappearance and the matter was likened to that of PC Khetheng”.
“I exhumed Khetheng from the very bottom where he was buried and I’d like those who were making allegations that I have killed Mojakhomo to come forward and say them again. I am not here to kill people.
“We also prayed for Mojakhomo to be found alive and we knew that the God we serve never disappoints and we would find her. And if for some reason we were expected to play a (soccer) draw with our predecessors to kill Mojakhomo because they killed Khetheng, they are still ahead of us on a one-nil score. They scored one for killing Khetheng and we didn’t score because Mojakhomo is still alive,” Commissioner Molibeli said.
He said they had always received tips of Mojakhomo’s whereabouts though they were now being made to believe that she was only found on Monday.
“Though we are given the impression that her whereabouts have only been known recently, we have our suspicions that there are people who have always known where she was all along.
“We don’t understand who she called and where she got the contacts because her cellphone is still with the police. This confirms that there are people who have always known where she is.
“We expect her lawyer to bring her in so that she may answer her fraud charges and charges of escaping from lawful custody. She owes us an explanation as to how she escaped and who had aided her because now everyone is a suspect in the matter including me.”
Commissioner Molibeli said they would call in more people to help them with investigations and he urged all those who aided her escape to confess.
“There is a high possibility that more people will be hauled in including those who were guarding her when she disappeared.”
He said although they expected her lawyer to facilitate Ms Mojakhomo’s return, they would also make their “own efforts to bring her into the country once we have established her whereabouts”.