Looking at the 16-year-old boy sheepishly smiling at his mother outside the court, a passer-by commented: “Look at just how tiny he looks ... I wonder what his exact role was in the brutal murder of those police officers while in the company of his grown-up co-accused.”
A woman standing next to the teenager, who appeared to be a police officer, advised him to hide his face with his hat as he continued to attract attention. The boy and the woman identified as his mother later got into a car to avoid the stares.
The minor and four adults were arrested on Wednesday for the gruesome murders of police officers Constable Simon Ngakaemang Ntsekeletsa (50) and Sergeant Mojalefa Horatius Molete (42). He had just appeared separately in the children’s court at the Itsoseng Magistrates’ Court in North West on Friday.
The other four accused – Benjamin Jacobs (42), Jeremiah Mongale (26), Rapulana Keikantse (25) and Matthews Modukanele (20) – also made a brief appearance in the same court.
A fresh wound was visible on the face of one of the accused men as they walked into the courtroom. Another accused bore a smaller wound on his forehead. It was not clear how they had sustained those injuries.
The four were remanded in custody, while the teenager was sent to a place of safety. The case was postponed to August 5 for further investigation. They will apply for bail then. However, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it would oppose bail.
“The state will oppose bail as this is a schedule 6 offence. It would therefore be in the interest of justice for the accused to remain behind bars,” said Henry Mamothame, NPA spokesperson in North West.
Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso, the Hawks’ provincial spokesperson, said the five were facing charges of murder, malicious damage to property and possession of a stolen firearm. They were all arrested at Logageng village near Mahikeng about 12 hours after the gruesome discovery of the charred bodies of Molete and Ntsekeletsa in a burnt-out police car.
Rikhotso said the two officers were last seen when they left Mareetsane Police Station for patrols on Monday.
“It is alleged that, at about 9pm, the two officers came across a vehicle loaded with suspected stolen goats. The members reported the incident to the commander and mentioned that they would be bringing the vehicle to the police station soon,” she said.
But they didn’t arrive.
“They could not be reached on both their cellphones and police radio. A [search] for the police officers was immediately launched.”
A day later, Rikhotso said, the police were alerted by community members of blood stains on the road leading to the police station.
“When the scene was visited, a knife and a police badge belonging to one of the deceased was found, and a second badge was [later] found near Mareetsane Road.
“Further investigations led the team to a burnt state vehicle wherein the bodies of the deceased police officers were discovered,” she said. “The team followed all the leads and worked tirelessly until they traced and arrested the five suspects. They were allegedly found in possession of a 9mm pistol taken from one of the slain police officers.
“A hammer, clothing with suspected blood stains and a vehicle have been seized for further investigation.”
Meanwhile, Community Safety MEC Sello Lehari visited the slain officers’ families in Sannieshof and Coligny on Thursday. Lehari pleaded with the family to trust them.
“You put your children in our care and we as government failed to protect them. Please, allow us to support you in this trying time ... death is not a simple process to deal with, but let us have faith in this being the will of God, so justice will prevail,” he said.
Lehari described the horrific murders as “despicable”, adding that “these callous criminals are heartless”.
Head of the Hawks, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, also promised the late officers’ families justice.
“We certainly hope that the families of our fallen police officers will find comfort in the arrest of suspects and look forward to a successful prosecution of these criminal acts,” Lebeya said.