Saving Private Mareme

Sharon Mathala


A BDF soldier who had charges of attempted robbery and malicious damage to property hanging over his head for the past four years is now a free man.

On Monday Private Phenyo Timber Mareme breathed a sigh of relief when Lobatse Chief Magistrate Gofaone Morweng ruled that the state had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

“I find that the inconsistency between the charge sheet and the prosecution evidence is material and hence spoils the prosecution case,” said magistrate Morweng before he acquitted and discharged Mareme.

The background of the case is that Mareme was bullied, harassed at work and driven to desperation by some of his abusive superiors before he committed the alleged offences.

The court heard that on or about the 23rd December 2017 at Rakhuna Military Garrison, Mareme attempted to steal military guns. He was also accused of threatening other BDF officers uttering the words, ” I will blow your brains out.”

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The listed BDF items which the soldier was accused of attempting to steal were a general-purpose machine Gun, a Rocket Propelling Launcher (RPG7), four shells for the rocket propelling launcher, eight grenades as well as six canister smokes.

He was also alleged to have unlawfully damaged the security fence of Rakhuna Military Garrison, valued at P1000.

He pleaded not guilty to the two counts but during the course of the trial, the state made an application to withdraw count 2 and the accused was acquitted of the same offence.

Prosecution submitted that, “He instructed Lance Corporal Maluzo to unsecure a General Purpose Machine Gun which was in the Sentry and he did. He as well ordered him to load the said gun with bullets and took its possession. He pointed it at them and directed them to the Armory where Corporal Lesang was the officer on duty. Thereupon he requested Maluzo to knock at the Armory without raising suspicions that they were under threat. He ordered him outside and asked him about the availability of certain arms and ammunition in there. Furthermore, he ordered them to open a storage container that was within the same vicinity and demanded that they give him an FN rifle, which he had been personally issued with. They did not find the particular rifle and he alternatively demanded any other Brazilian-made rifle. Eventually, he expressed to them that he had no issues with them but the Commanding Officer.”

In his defence Mareme argued that his erratic behavior on that day was a culmination of stress resulting from his past mistreatment by his superiors.

“ It was the defence case that during his military days there was an incident where one of his superiors had pointed a loaded firearm to his head and which incident left him with trauma. Further that in the period of six (6) years in which he was with BDF he had been denied the opportunity to attend the funerals of his close family members including that of his daughter,” reads court documents.

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Turning to the night in question Mareme said he had communicated with his superiors that he was going to arrive 15 minutes late for duty, but got the shock of his life when he was subjected to a disciplinary hearing.

“When he was about to knock off in the morning there was an instruction that he was to be subjected to a disciplinary hearing in the particular morning on the basis that he had neglected his duty. The hearing was commenced and in the process those conducting it kept ridiculing him and threatening him with a 45-day solitary confinement at BDF prison facility. Fearing for his life, he walked out of the hearing and went to his house where he started drinking Black Label quart. Eventually, he left the camp with the intention to go to his home village of Molepolole,” reads his defence.

Making his final determination the Magistrate said, “The prosecution’s charge sheet lacked particularity in that it merely stated that the accused had pointed, “A gun” at the three Botswana Defence Force personnel. The word “gun” as used in the charge sheet was used in its generic form. It is my view that the prosecution charge sheet should have described the make of the gun that the accused had used to point to the alleged individuals.”

The omission had therefore left the court in a speculative position and in the end with no choice but to acquit and discharge Mareme.


(Issue V1229 FRIDAY 24.12.2021)

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