Johannesburg - Convicted child-killer and rapist Modise Motapane thought he was smart enough. But the man who got him behind bars wasn’t fooled by Motapane’s actions when he started investigating.
A Katlehong detective, Sergeant Malesela Malope, had a triumphant smile on his face on Tuesday. “This was my first big case that I managed to prove. It was also the first case that I took to the high court and managed to take the perpetrator behind bars for good,” he said.
On Monday, Motapane was sentenced to two life sentences for the rape and murder of 4-year-old Keabetswe Tshabalala. Motapane was further sentenced to seven years behind bars for kidnapping the girl.
On September 8, Keabetswe’s body was found hanging from a hook on the wall of an abandoned building in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni.
During the trial last week, Keabetswe’s mother, Keneiwe Tshabalala, told the court that Motapane had led the search to the veld and later took them to a building where Keabetswe’s body was found.
The family had become worried when Tshabalala could not find her daughter after going out to call her for a bath.
A search led by Motapane, which went on until the next day, ensued. When Tshabalala eventually found her daughter, she was dead and hooked to the wall of the dilapidated building.
Keabetswe was found wearing her T-shirt. Her other clothes were found on the floor next to her body.
Throughout his trial, Motapane repeatedly denied all the charges against him and pleaded not guilty. He failed to explain to the court how his DNA profile was found on Keabetswe’s underwear and vagina. The court heard that Motapane was well known to the dead child’s family.
“You know your job is done when parents of the deceased and the community welcome the ruling. That on its own makes the police officer sleep at night with a smile,” said Malope. “He thought he was smart, but he played his game badly.”
Malope arrested Motapane a few hours after Keabetswe’s body was discovered.
“There was suspicious information about him. This is the man who led the search to the girl’s discovery, but wanted to run away before police could take his statement. He tried to change his trousers when he became aware that sniffer dogs will be brought to the scene. That didn’t make sense to me,” Malope said, shaking his head.
When the sergeant received a phone call from an anonymous person with information regarding the case, he knew he had to detain Motapane for questioning.
At the time, he was panicking because he had instructed police officers driving Motapane and Keabetswe’s father to release them at Natalspruit Hospital after their blood was drawn.
“I had to make sure that they were brought back to the station. Had I not done that, Motapane could have walked away freely. I don’t think I could have slept at night knowing that the man who killed the girl was gone.”
Luckily, Motapane was brought back to the station.
“He tried playing the Good Samaritan. But I didn’t game it (Motapane’s actions didn’t fool him). He boasted how DNA results would clear his name. Had I not kept him that day, I’m telling you, Motapane was gone.
“He didn’t have a permanent residential home. His mother told me that she was not prepared to bail him out if he was granted bail”, Malope said.
On Tuesday morning, Malope, who joined the SAPS in 1998, was congratulated for a job well done by Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant-General Lesetja Mothiba.
Malope, who comes from Limpopo, said his dream always was to be a detective. He began his career at Alberton police station, where he worked at the charge office. He later worked as a court orderly, something which pushed him to take a course and train as a detective.
“My job wasn’t challenging at the time. Transporting and looking after awaiting prisoners was not what I wanted. I needed something that was challenging”, said the father-of-four.