Mophane worms, headless chickens and burnt huts

Kabelo Dipholo

Changate man accused of torching mum’s huts

A fiery Friday afternoon in Changate started with an ill-advised feast on mophane worm and climaxed with three torched huts, a headless chicken and a very angry mother.

The man at the centre of the devastation is 34-year-old Richard Toteng, who is accused of burning down three of his mum’s huts.

The suspected arsonist was remanded in custody by Masunga Magistrates Court on Tuesday and will remain behind bars indefinitely, with his next court appearance set for after the State of Emergency is lifted – at least six months away!

In total, the fires are estimated to have destroyed household property worth P25, 000.

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Labelled as someone frequently on the wrong side of the law by Investigating Officer (IO) Sergeant Sebele Oageng, Richard reportedly went on the rampage last Friday.

His red-hot rage was apparently stoked when one of the chickens in his mother’s yard devoured the mophane worms he had lovingly laid out to dry in the sun.

It proved to be the chicken’s last meal.

Furious at missing out on his tasty treat, Richard is said to have ripped off the unfortunate bird’s head before flinging the trembling carcass into a nearby bush.

According to the IO, earlier that day Richard had called his mum, Julia Toteng – who currently resides in Gaborone – requesting her permission to sell one of the family’s cows. It was a request the old lady denied.

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Already in a bad mood, it seems the chicken’s antics pushed Richard over the edge.

“He proceeded to burn the house and told everyone who cared to listen that he was doing so because his family takes him for granted. He complained that he was starving but none of them ever sends him money to buy food even though he looks after the family cattle,” Oageng told court.

The IO further revealed the suspect was arrested minutes after the incident.

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“He fled into the bush but returned a few minutes later and handed himself in.”

Pleading for the suspect to be remanded, Oageng described Richard as ‘an unpredictable individual’ who should be incarcerated for his own safety.

The officer also told court that Richard only completed his extra mural in March and has another case pending at Customary Court.

“He absconded a lot from his extra mural and there is no guarantee that he’ll observe the bail application. We’re also worried that he may burn the remaining house in the yard, because he has allegedly boasted that he was to burn it down,” continued Oageng, adding that the suspect’s mother, who is in Gaborone on medical grounds, asked that her son remain in custody until she gets back to Changate.

“Now due to travel restrictions imposed by the State of Emergency (SoE), I’ve no idea when his mother will be able to come home!” he concluded.

In his plea for bail, Richard, who looked close to tears, literally begged to be set free and promised to behave and uphold any bail conditions set.

However, his emotion failed to move presiding Magistrate, Segametsi Basinyi.

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