Living in fear

Sharon Mathala

*Confessions of an ex-cartel boy

*41-year-old Selala Tsibele is a man living in fear.

He claims he got involved with a criminal cartel, ripped off his bosses, and is now a wanted man, his former comrades hungry for his blood.

Tsibele originally contacted The Voice back in October shortly after he fled the gang. Plagued by uncertainty, he got cold feet and backed out of the interview at the last moment.

Three months later and he is finally ready to share his chilling tale.

We meet in a backyard in Mochudi at a location Tsibele requests be kept secret.

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He is uneasy, visibly twitchy, and on high alert, as if ready to bolt at the slightest sign of trouble. His bloodshot, tired eyes betray the lack of sleep that has haunted his nights ever since he double-crossed his one-time allies.

He tells The Voice he wants his words recorded before it’s too late and ‘he is killed.’

According to Tsibele, unemployment and desperation drove him to work for an individual (name known to The Voice) who he describes as the head of one of the most dangerous cartels in Botswana.

Drug trafficking, fake passports, and stock theft are just some of the illegal activities the gang specialise in.

“At some point last year I was living with him in his house in Mochudi. His family was living elsewhere. I was basically his driver and I would go out to the field with him,” narrates Tsibele, licking his lips nervously as he speaks.

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Explaining how he came to fall out with his bosses, Tsibele looks forlornly to the skies, as if seeking divine intervention.

“Around September last year, there was a meeting with his business associates. They had made around P170, 000 and so everyone was getting their cut. My cut was P15, 000 but my boss was delaying to give me my money. I knew where the money was kept and so I went and got my cut. I took about P10, 000,” confesses Tsibele, quietly cursing himself for his impatience.

Although he maintains he did not regard his actions like stealing, his bosses took a different view when they realised he had taken the money.

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Terrified for his life, Tsibele ran. He has been running ever since.

“I have moved out of my home now because immediately after, they stormed my parent’s home looking for me. They threatened my parents and even terrorized my girlfriend and everyone who they think would know where I am.”

When asked why he has returned to Mochudi, on the doorstep of the very people he says want to kill him, Tsibele replies simply, “I have now run out of options.

“I can’t stay at one place for long because they track me down. I need a safe place. I need help.”

So why hasn’t he gone to the police for protection?

Instead of helping him, Tsibele accused the cops of harassment and insists they are on the gangster’s payroll.

“He has contacts with the Police, politicians, and most civil servants really. Last year, beginning of October, I handed myself to the Police because they were harassing my parents about my whereabouts. I told the Police the whole story and how I got to take the money and how we acquired the money. But they were not interested in my story. Instead, they wanted to know where I had kept the money.

“I told the Police everything. I gave them names and details of the cartel but they still tortured me for the money I took. They tied me to a chair and dipped my head in a bucket full of water,” he maintains, adding he was eventually released from police custody and has been running ever since.

Giving The Voice a brief insight into his life of crime, Tsibele reveals, “Throughout the lockdown period we travelled all around the country. We would go to places like Takatokwane, Maboane, Xara, Mmashoro, and Paje stealing stray cattle, goats, and sheep.

“Actually most times we had connections with herdboys. We would set a date and would go there to take people’s cattle and sell them. I guess the herdboys would come up with some random story about what happened to their employers’ cattle. Other times we would just pick up stray goats and sheep because they are easier to handle.”

According to Tsibele, they would then transport the animals to a yard in Mochudi, where the cattle would be slaughtered for distribution to ‘prominent’ customers.

Meanwhile, Mochudi Police Station Commander, Wazha Dambe confirmed Tsibele has a case registered with his station but was reluctant to go into detail on the matter.

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“I can confirm we have a case of theft against Tsibele. The Investigators are still completing certain pieces of the puzzle in the case and it will be taken to court soon,” disclosed the police boss.

However, Tsibele believes his case won’t see the light of day.

“When I tell you this man has connections you think I am lying. It has been months since I was tortured by the Police. They could have registered the case by now. All the evidence they speak of would be the court’s decision to make.

“I now understand what I did was wrong. I got involved with the wrong people, now they want to kill me!” concludes Tsibele, speaking with the air of a condemned man waiting for the hangman’s inevitable noose.


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