Killed, chopped, and hanged

*Mob accuses family of murdering Tonota man, burn down house

The search of a missing Tonota man ended tragically on Sunday as his body was found hanging from a tree in the bush minus his hands and feet.

Monametsi Mahempe Gabotogelwe, 21 went missing on November 19 after he left home herding donkeys to the river.

A young Zimbabwean who found Gabotogelwe’s mutilated corpse, told The Voice he immediately alerted residents of Tapaladipoo upon his gruesome discovery.

The visibly shaken youth begged that his name not be mentioned in the paper.

“I’m the one who took the police to the scene. He had no feet and hands,” said the source, his voice constricted to a terrified whisper.

The Voice team went to the alleged crime scene and found what looked like the dry, decaying skin from the sole of a foot. The team immediately notified the police, who came to collect what could potentially be a vital piece of evidence in their investigations.

Meanwhile as word spread in the village that Gabotogelwe’s mutilated body had been discovered an unruly rabble descended on the George family who were staying with the deceased accusing them of his murder.

The mob was armed with bricks, knobkerries, whips and logs baying for the blood of George family.

According to 54-year-old Mobita George who stayed with the deceased at Tapaladipoo Farms and was the last person to see him alive, Gabotogelwe’s untimely death has left him numb and his faith in humanity has taken a heavy knock.

“He insisted on herding the donkeys to the river even though I was against it because it was too hot. He however left just around mid-day. By 5pm he was yet to return,” said Mobita in an emotional interview with The Voice on Monday.

The visibly traumatised old man, who had narrowly escaped the wrath of a blood-thirsty mob and seen his property reduced to waste the night before, said late in the evening he called at one of Mahempe’s drinking spots to enquire about his whereabouts.

“I got worried when the donkeys returned home without him and thought he might be on one of his usual drinking sprees,” he explained.

Gabotogelwe did not come back that night nor the following day – indeed he was never to return alive.

Worried and aware of rumours and tension building around Tapaladipoo and Tonota, Mobita went to the Police to report Gabotogelwe missing.

“A search was launched and that is when accusations started flying. One group of the search party confronted my wife and demanded that she should tell them where Mahempe was. They whipped her, accusing her of murder,” Mobita said with a heavy sigh.

“Ba re re jele ngwana (They say we have killed him for ritual purposes),” he continued quietly.

“Mahempe was like a son to me. I liked him because unlike his peers he was a hard worker,” maintained Mobita earnestly.

The volatile search party’s temper, which was already dangerously high, reached boiling point on Sunday after the discovery of Gabotogelwe’s decomposed, disfigured body.

“We heard there was a group that planned to attack us and burn everything we owned. On Sunday evening we heard them singing, whistling as they marched towards my house.

“Together with my wife we ran to the house next door leaving my son and his friends. The moment the mob arrived they bombarded the yard with rocks,” revealed Mobita, his eyes glowing with a mixture of indignant anger and obvious fear.

“The first rock smashed the window of a Run X car parked in the yard,” interjected Obakeng George, 37, a son who remained in the yard as his parents sought refuge next door.

Ironically, the vehicle did not even belong to the George family, but was the property of well-known taxi-driver Kagiso Kenosi, who was visiting Obakeng when the mob attacked.

“Moments later it rained stones, they smashed all the windows, stones went through windows into the house as we cowered into a corner with my friend and baby.

“After there was nothing left to break they set the rondavel on fire and continued singing provocative songs,” narrated the younger George.

Police eventually rounded up 16 people thought to be the gang’s ringleaders and brought them in for questioning.

The group appeared at Francistown Magistrate Court before Magistrate Thebeetsile Mulalo on Wednesday morning and are accused of burning Mobitla’s thatched-roof house, causing P11, 400 worth of damage.

The mob members also face a charge of breaking car windows, mirrors, doors and damaging the body of Kenosi’s vehicle, which is valued at P19, 800.

They 16 suspects were all given a P500 bail and will be back in court on the 28th of December for mention.

Meanwhile, Tonota Police Station Commander, Superintendent Kenanao Badumetse stressed no charge had been laid against Mobitla.

Badumetse confirmed there was no basis to treat him as a suspect, adding, “We just have to wait for the autopsy results, which we hope to receive by Friday.”

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