A traumatised Mahalapye man who witnessed police shot his friend at close range has spoken of his night of horror as family members accused officers of cold-blooded murder.
Moatlhodi Tumelo, 30, related details of the ruthless shooting, claiming his friend was an innocent victim of police brutality.
He told how on 11 September cops shot his friend, 47-year-old Aupa Ellias in the head after bringing their car to a halt by firing at the tyres.
“Aupa had given me P50 for petrol and after filling up we headed home after a night out as it was already past midnight.
As we approached Madiba Secondary School we heard gunshots and the rear tyres burst.
“We were both terrified so I stopped the car and noticed that the gunshots had come from an unmarked police van that was following us. The van with private number plates raced past our car and made a u-turn to block us. There were police officers inside and at that moment a marked police van also arrived on the scene full of uniformed police officers.
“One of the officers hand-cuffed me and made me lie down as he pressed my head down with his boot. I then heard a gunshot hitting Aupa before I heard him groan in pain. Blood splattered all over the car and a chill went down my spine as fear and confusion gripped me. I knew we had done nothing wrong.”
Still shocked from the incident which will forever be etched in his mind, Tumelo said that police then loaded them in separate vehicles and drove him to the police station where he was told that Ellias had been taken to Mahalapye hospital.
He said no explanation was given by the police at the time of the incident. However according to sources they had been a robbery case in Mahalapye on that particular night hence the police thought the two might be the suspects.
“The following morning I was told that Aupa had died. I was devastated, scared and numb. As I sat locked in a police cell for another day I tried to figure out why police had executed my friend.”
Tumelo was later charged with driving without a driver’s license and fined P1 500.
Ellias was laid to rest at a Mahalapye cemetery last weekend amidst anguish and anger as friends and relatives demanded that justice be meted out on the trigger-happy police officer who shot him.
His grieving elder sister, Marriam said: “How could they shoot unarmed people. Why didn’t they arrest them if they suspected them of a crime? My brother was a breadwinner in the family and now he’s gone. Those who killed him need to face the full weight of the law.”
Catherine, another elder sister to Ellias said the police had not updated them on any progress that has been made on the case since the burial. “They provided a tent and a generator for the funeral but we haven’t heard anything from them since then.
We could not even afford a coffin because we lost our mother two months ago. We had to get a council coffin and relied on friends for other funeral costs,” she said.
Director of Public Relations at Botswana Police, Christopher Mbulawa, confirmed the incident but said investigations were still underway and that the necessary procedure would be followed upon their completion.