A painful case of mistaken identity has left a 29-year-old man in a hospital bed, his battered body pierced by bullets fired from ‘trigger happy’ cops.
Thuto Maruputle is currently recovering at Princess Marina Hospital; he insists he is lucky to be alive.
The Molepolole youth was shot twice in the thigh by police officers on Friday 22 February as he walked home with his girlfriend from the village’s The Pub bar.
The boys in blue had mistaken Maruputle for suspected murderer Kabo Motlhbane – the 33-year-old man accused of stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death in front of her Ipelegeng co-workers earlier that day.
Lying forlornly on his bed, his left leg swathed in thick white bandages and finding it difficult to sit-up, Maruputle cuts a disconsolate figure.
Narrating his tale of woe, the man known to his friends as Dondo told The Voice he had arranged to meet his lover, who was travelling from Serinane village, later that day.
“In the evening, when I tried to check how far she was, she told me to stop calling her, saying she had heard that I killed someone!” explains the injured man, his eyes widening in shock at the memory.
“I told her it was not me.
“Then I went home to sleep. Later on she called and said I should wait for her at The Pub bar. While waiting, I saw her by the road dropped by a Nissan. I went to her, grabbed her by the hand and we started walking home; it was around 10 o’clock.”
It was at this point that Maruputle’s troubles began.
“We had gone a short distance when a certain man hastily tripped me. As I fell down, he dragged me and shot me in the thigh. While still traumatised he dragged me into the street and shot again.”
According to Maruputle, the bullet smashed into his bone before exiting the other side of his badly bleeding leg.
Swaying on the edge of consciousness, amidst his cries of agony Maruputle says he could hear the officers talking to each other.
“I heard the other cop shouting, ‘He is not the one’. People from the bar came and watched from a distance as they were also scared. The cops took me to Scottish Livingstone Hospital where I was quickly transferred here in Marina,” continued the bed-ridden man, who complained of headaches and non-stop pain in his mangled leg.
Confirming the incident, Molepolole Police Superintendent Lebani Burns said the police mistook Maruputle for Motlhbane as the two are similar in appearance and were both wearing black.
“The police fired three warning shots and unfortunately shot the victim who sustained minor injuries,” claimed Burns – a statement that Maruputle emphatically denies.
“There were no warning shots. They ambushed and attacked me!” he insists vehemently, muttering angrily at the suggestion his injuries are ‘minor’.
Maruputle admits he is no stranger to the law and was once accused of murder himself, although the charges were later dropped.
“It was in 2016. I got into a fight with another man and injured him on the shoulder. He later died but the case was dismissed,” explained Maruputle, who also has an on-going legal matter in which he is facing a robbery charge.
Having previously earned his living as a labourer – a trade through which he received a monthly income of around P4, 000 – his immediate concern is how he will survive financially.
It is a worry shared by his mother, 55-year-old widow, Masego Maruputle.
The unemployed woman revealed she has long been reliant on her son for support.
“The police woke me at my home to inform me of the incident. I am suffering, as I do not even have money for transport to check Thuto at the hospital.
“My son is now weak, he cannot do anything. We will sit down as a family to discuss the matter for the police to pay,” stressed Masego, gazing sadly at her son as he moans in pain.