*Duo’s persistence leads to fugitive’s arrest after 9-hour surveillance
It has been almost four years since 34-year-old Nelson Moyo Mangena disappeared with baby Betty Morris, aged just 19 months at the time.
Although her biological father, Mangena vanished without a trace, leaving behind the child’s shattered mother, Oratile Morris, 34, to nurse a bleeding heart.
Now, after a prolonged solo campaign, including numerous trips to The Voice’s Francistown office and many more to Central Police Station, Morris’ heartache could soon be at an end.
Having evaded the cops for over three years, Mangena was arrested in Tonota on Sunday evening.
His arrest was made possible by two villagers – 44-year-old farm worker, Mothusi Baipoledi and his employer, Rebonweeng Moring, 36 – who had trailed the wanted fugitive throughout the day.
Narrating his tale to The Voice, the unassuming Baipoledi explained he spotted Mangena at a local drinking spot on Saturday afternoon and immediately recognised his face from a previous article in the paper (Where is Baby Betty? 16 August 2019).
“I remembered that he was a wanted man for running away with a baby. Since I knew the mother I shared my suspicions with my friends,” he said, adding his attempts to contact the missing baby’s mother hit a snag as her mobile did not go through.
“Luckily I managed to talk to her early on Sunday morning. I immediately told her of my discovery and suspicions.”
Convinced that he was close to cracking a case that had torn the Morris family apart, Baipoledi made his way back to the drinking spot hoping to see Mangena again.
He was in luck.
“Just as I arrived around 8am, he was walking out carrying his luggage. Together with Moring we followed him.”
Taking over the narrative, Moring admits he was unconvinced but ultimately decided he was up for the chase.
“There was no time for doubts as the man boarded a taxi. We also took a taxi and followed him at a distance. I had to pay with the little money I had saved for a bag of mealie-meal.
“But we were after a man wanted for stealing a baby, not a calf, so I had no qualms spending the money!”
Throughout their covert operation, the two men kept updating the police, as well as Morris, who was travelling back from Gaborone with her church mates.
“It was frustrating because while we notified the police, they did not respond quickly to apprehend him,” continued Moring, adding Mangena changed taxis twice.
“Eventually our own taxi driver felt the mission was becoming too dangerous as the man we were after was behaving strangely. We had to leave the taxi and walked on foot. Eventually we lost him.”
However, to their shock, Mangena re-appeared at the same drinking spot a few hours later.
Determined not to lose their prey for a second time, the duo took yet another taxi and followed him to a bar in the outskirts of Tonota.
“We had been following this guy since 9am and the police finally arrested him at around 1800hours in the evening as we kept them in the loop about his whereabouts. We made it our personal mission to ensure that he did not vanish!” Moring reflected proudly.
His delight is punctured by his annoyance at the police.
“We used our own resources to trek a wanted, possibly dangerous man, for close to nine hours. The police should’ve been quick to react because we could’ve easily lost him.”
Reiterating this frustration in an emotional interview with The Voice, Morris revealed the last time she went to the police they did not even have her baby’s pictures.
“They used a picture from The Voice. I cried bitterly when I learnt that Mangena was spotted in Tonota. Shockingly it appears he never even left Botswana. All this time he has been in Foley, sometimes Ditladi. The police never cared to look for him. I was not surprised that they didn’t react quickly to apprehend him when they first received Mothusi’s call,” slammed the Shashemooke-born mum.
Morris pleaded with the authorities to speed up their investigations, as she fears any delay may jeopardise her chances of seeing her daughter alive again.
“Mangena said my daughter is in Zimbabwe with his relatives, but the police said it’ll take at least three months before they can make the trip to his relatives,” she said desperately.
“I don’t know whether to believe him or not. I’m no longer even angry with him and can’t even cry any more. All I want is my daughter!”